September 16th, 2008
06:07 AM ET
6 years ago

Powell still undecided, says Obama win would be 'electrifying'

Powell, a Republican, has said he may not back the GOP pick this cycle.
Powell, a Republican, has said he may not back the GOP pick this cycle.

(CNN) - Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that he has not yet decided which candidate to back in this year’s presidential race.

The election of an African-American president “would be electrifying,” Powell told a George Washington University audience, “but at the same time [I have to] make a judgment here on which would be best for America.

“I have been watching both individuals, I know them both extremely well, and I have not decided who I am going to vote for. And I'm interested to see what the debates are going to be like because we have to get off of this ‘lipstick on a pig’ stuff and get into issues,” he said.

Powell's full comments will air on “The Next President: A World of Challenges” this Saturday night at 9pm ET and again Sunday at 2pm ET.

Last month, as the retired general’s office denied a report that he had decided to publicly back Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, several sources told CNN’s John King that Powell was still undecided. “As always, he is holding his cards close and waiting for more information," one adviser close to Powell told CNN’s John King.

Earlier this year, Powell told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he was weighing an endorsement of a Democrat or independent candidate. “I am keeping my options open at the moment,” said Powell.

“I have voted for members of both parties in the course of my adult life. And as I said earlier, I will vote for the candidate I think can do the best job for America, whether that candidate is a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent,” he added.

Powell also offered praise for Obama, calling him an “exciting person on the political stage.

“He has energized a lot of people in America,” said Powell, who briefly weighed his own run for the White House in the mid-1990s. “He has energized a lot of people around the world. And so I think he is worth listening to and seeing what he stands for.”

Last month, a Powell adviser told CNN that "he likes and admires John McCain, and that would be a factor in anything he does if he decides to get more involved."

Another source close to Powell said that he has known McCain for more than three decades “and likes him, and is looking for a reason to vote for him. He hasn't found it yet."

soundoff (294 Responses)
  1. Doug R.

    Sorry Mr. Mark LaMonte, Colin Powell can't stand McCain. And who could or should...McCain is a fraud. Colin Powell would never be his VP candidate.
    Powell will privately endorse Obama for President.

    September 16, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  2. Dude

    Why was Michelle Obama absent from the 911 ceremony with her husband and Mr and Mrs McCain? ?
    Why did CNN not report this, it again shows how patriotic are Obama,s? So disrespectful. Obama's snorty faces show it all the arrogance and hate they have about common people.
    CNN dare to post it.

    September 16, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  3. don

    Mr. Powell gets my respect and I am a republican from a battleground state and I will be voting Obama/Biden 08 this is a family issue and we are losing jobs left and right here in Ohio and they pollsters are not speaking to people like me. Bring it on

    September 16, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  4. From PA

    How about covering McCain's B-Day party with Raffaello Follieri? How is it that McCain meeting with a man who posed as Vatican chief financial officer in order to win friends and investments not news? I guess it is not news when McCain chooses to celebrate his 70th birthday with someone who plead guilty in a Manhattan district court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering.

    September 16, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. Jack Carlson

    Powell will vote for McCAin because of Leadership skills – are you sure he did not mean electrifying = scary !
    We know who put in place the laws that allowed Wall Street to go crazy legally – it was in the 90's the reduction of regulations happened.
    Jack Carlson
    Seattle WA

    September 16, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  6. Janet

    To Mark: What you just wrote is so ignorant. To say that black people don't have a mind of their own to vote for a candidate that has what we, yes we, I'm a black woman is looking for in our next president then to say we are voting for him because of his skin color. Colin Powell is a well respected person that will vote based on issues and not just because someone is black. I can say the same thing when it comes to why McCain have a lead when it comes to white women it's because they are for him because a woman is on the ticket, call it for what it is. This type of thinking is why our country will continue to not move beyond race and other negative ways of thinking. Then you have those who may think he is the best person to be our next president but won't vote for him just because he's black, let's talk about that. People are tired of the last 7 years and are looking for something different. Our current president suppose to have had "experience and leadership" but look at what experience got us. I will rather take my chances on someone like Obama, not because he's black but because he's the best person to be our next President!

    September 16, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  7. Bev

    In reply to Mark:

    What a racist comment. It's the same as sayiing that all women will vote for Palin because she's a woman. NOT SO! We are all Americans and race and gender should not play a part in this election. We must do what is right for our country that is in deep trouble. That would be Change! Not 4 more years of the same.
    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. MJ - San Antonio, TX

    This is a man with great respect. I wish he was running for President. I feel he has more knowledge of whom would make a better President and it looks like he is not supporting the McCain/Lipstick ticket.

    September 16, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  9. The Voice of Common Sense (Independent Voter - Charlotte, NC)

    Colin Powell vote 3rd-Party! After your misguided allegiance with Bush for his illegal war in Iraq, you need to redeem your sense of judgement in many Americans' eyes!

    Baldwin/Castle 08!

    September 16, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  10. Free Thinker

    Come on! Let's all take one guess at who Powell will be supporting. The racial component of this election will eventually be all he cares about. Never mind experience, etc. If Powell thinks he will surprise anyone in the country with an Obama endorsement (like anyone in the country cares who he endorses) then he is as simple minded as we all thought he was! Powell is simply a man with no core principles – otherwise he would come clean with his "pick" instead of claiming he has not made up his mind. What a joke!

    September 16, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  11. Kenny

    mobiusinformer – You're saying Obama isn't an African-American? His father was African, and his mother was American. How else would you describe him other than African-American?

    September 16, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  12. Conservative democrat

    I like Colin Powell but I will vote for I who I think is better for the country and not who he does! I don't really care what he thinks. I am undecided and will be watching the debates. I have leaned at times to BO and McCain and it is a tough choice.

    September 16, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  13. Irabor

    Colin Powell served as secretary of state in president Bush 1st term Republican Party, if he still have Confidents in Republican, He would not have been finding it difficult whom to Choose when his Party Flag Bearer is there A life.

    Irabor
    Nigeria

    September 16, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  14. zen

    Instead of trying to bring down the other party and nit-picking, the 2 parties should be telling the American people how they will turn the economy around and how they will improve their world standing. That is more important than finding out each other's faults, pointing fingers at each other and behaving in a boorish manner. Because at the end of day, whoever sits in the White House will have to deal with all the economic, unemployment, etc. , problems, and the people have the right to know NOW how all that could be solved.

    September 16, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  15. Bruce

    Colin Powell was used by Bush and it is too bad.
    I do not think he will endorse anyone, but hint that what way he is leaning.
    Now did anyone see Mccain on the Today show this morning...even with a "soft interviewer " he did not answer the questions presented to him, did not offer any concrete ideas,,just repeated the same tired worn lines that he has been saying over and over. Wake up America..he has not offred any answers, refuses to directly answer questions with what he plans to do, and has done nothing but negative campaigning.
    Time for a Change.

    September 16, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  16. Wake Up America

    He's a conservative but he cannot deny that he'll prefer Senator Obama to win, and make history as the first African American President, it'll be the start of a new era, where ALL children and young adults can start to dream big knowing that they can one day be the President.

    September 16, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  17. MS

    To Mark:
    You are an ignorant piece of work. If "99% of blacks were voting for Obama because of his race" then why didn't they vote for Jackson or Sharpton?! You're just as ignorant as a box of rocks. If Obama were Republican hollering the same thing as McCain and vice versa, my guess is many blacks would not vote for him. But because you do not want to give credit for a successful, intelligent and honest candidate who obviously truly wants to help rebuild America and help you help yourself, you are playing the race card. Fear! MS has spoken.

    September 16, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  18. Phil-Texas

    Colin Powell is not relevent at this time. He has not been in the spotlight for too long. Their are a lot of people who don't even know who Powell is. I have 6 granddughters who ask who he is and what he did. He needs to be more visible and be more active in the countries affiars if he wants to be listened to.

    September 16, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  19. Larry -Philadelphia

    Who Colin Powell picks should not have any effect on who the rest of America votes for. H e has 1 vote like all of us but he has a national stage to endorse who he feels is the best choice.

    September 16, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  20. Liam

    I've seen so many comments that refer to "race". The only people who actually bring it up are in fact racists. I'm going to vote for Obama (I'm 100% Irish. About as white as you can get) because I believe that he can take our country in a positive direction. I Believe that he has the ability to renew our friendship with the rest of the world. Right now every other country hates us... thanks to the republicans and war. If Powell chooses McCain it's because he believes in his goals. Same if he voted for Obama. Enough with the race nonsence.

    September 16, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  21. bert

    The dems need a person like Powell to weigh in and support Obama. It would have a greater effect than Lieberman's defect and the timing would not be the blantant disrespect of an appearance at the convention. Vote for Obama 08 and 2012.

    September 16, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  22. photodiva

    To mobiusinformer:

    Oh now I get it! When a biracial person is not in the public eye, he is African-American, BUT when he is in the public eye and about to make history for African-Americans, then he is biracial.

    What a stupid comment!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  23. Adam

    I can not stand the media. They keep pumping out the demo agenda Nd act like they haven't drank the koolaid. The attack McCain and Pallin and treat Osama with kid gloves. They think most people are going to fall for it. Osama keeps saying that Mc Cain has changed and has lost his honor, I don't see that at all. Osama keeps talking about McCain using bad tactics and going astray but he keeps throwing mud and says nothing when his liberal media does too. He is a hipocrite and a racist. Where is the coverage about his negatives? Even when some are shared they are always painted ina favorable light. Where is the digiing into Bidin's locker? Did you see the hearing when he talked down on one of the Supreme court candidates? " I have a higher IQ than you" ..... It was disgraceful and was full of lies. Where is the "unbiased media of CNN and family?
    You have few strong speaking Rebublician on your show and stack them against mellow to weak defenders. We all know where Collins real loyalies lie. He will vote for Osama for one reason. I hope all these liberal media networks go down the tubes after their false messiah loses.

    September 16, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  24. mediahack

    What's Powell waiting for? How on earth could an engaged poltical animal like Powell not have m ade up his mind yet?

    September 16, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  25. frank, las vegas

    Obama/Biden is obviously the best choice for the presidency of this country. He is bi-racial and represents the american dream for unity, peace and progress. If americans want war, war, war and fight, fight, fight – see mccain's acceptance speech for dooming america!

    September 16, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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