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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Adam, Chicago

    I have deep respect for this man and I wish that everyone would take his advice and wait to make a voting decision until you hear the debates. So far both parties have done nothing but toot there own horns and preach to their choirs.. See how they do in the debates, then make your decision. Unfortunately, I think most people have already made up their mind who they are going to vote for and that is too bad. Because you can't really know the candidates until you see them battle it out.

    September 16, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  2. TheTruth

    I'm sorry, but I refuse to fall for the same trick twice from anyone in the former Bush administration. Before Powell made his Iraq WMD presentation to the UN, he was the only one in the Bush administration that opposed the invasion. What this did was give him a huge following among anti war democrats, and more importantly, independents that were still on the fence. However, when Powell shifted his views (based on false data), it made a lot of these independents shift with him, which IMO turned the tide for the invasion. A lot of people believed that if Powell was convinced that Iraq was a major WMD threat then we could not afford to wait any longer.

    Powell doesn't hold the same influence he once did, but I wouldn't doubt if the same trick gets pulled twice...........get as many people on your side by pretending that you may support a democrat, and then come out 2 weeks before the election and tell your supporters why it's not a good idea to vote for Obama. Its the same trick Don Imus used when he pretended to endorse Kerry, but then switched one month before the election!

    September 16, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. Mary

    First they went after the liberal media, said they couldn’t be trusted, so I didn’t trust the media.

    And then they said you couldn’t trust scientists – it was all theories and opinions – so I didn’t trust science.

    And then they said I shouldn’t trust community organizers, because they don’t really do anything, so I didn’t trust community organizers.

    And then they said I shouldn’t trust eastern elites or those who live in cities, especially if those cities are Washington, so to be safe I didn’t trust anyone east of the Mississippi or west of the Andreas fault.

    And then they said that I shouldn’t trust the people, because 18 million of them cast votes for a guy who has never run anything and has no experience, so I didn’t trust the people.

    And then they said, "... these little facts don’t really matter," so I didn’t trust the little facts.

    And then they said, "You can’t trust the fact-check organizations," so I didn’t trust the fact-check organizations.

    And then ... after awhile ... there was no one left to trust but them.


    September 16, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. Joe Regis

    Landslide Obama/Biden!

    Landslide Obama/Biden!

    Landslide Obama/Biden!

    September 16, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Tomiwa

    Its because of the silence of people like him, the poll is hanging on a balance. I think he should lead the nation right by telling us his pick. I know he will make the right judgement, he needs to lead other to do so too.

    September 16, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  6. eleanor owen

    Powell has no spine. He did not then, when she should have resigned
    and spoken out over the Iraq war, and he does not now. He has
    become irrelevant in my opinion.

    September 16, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. kathy

    Colin Powell...yah gotta love him. He has served his country well and doesn't rry to hide behind his military service when confronted w/issues.'s constantly crammed down our throats...he's a POW...that is so yesterday!...his service was greatly admired...but he needs to fast forward to the future. Powell was thrown under the bus by the republican party. He has seen firsthand the damages done to the american people and the economy by the republicans. I'm sure his decision will be well thought out...and either way...he still has my respect.

    September 16, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. Emma

    Get off the stump Powell. What do you mean you have not decided? You are intelligent, a former cabinet member and you can't decide.


    September 16, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. NoMoreEvil

    Powell, you got us in this Iraq mess !!!!!!!!!!!! Do you think we care about what you think now???? Just think of all the innocent lives lost , Americans and Iraqis, I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life.

    September 16, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  10. allen

    Powell will endorse Obama because Powell knows that John Mccain is soft in the head. If you support John McCain, then you are soft in the head too.

    September 16, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  11. Bill from CT

    Come on Colin, from crying out loud we all know you're really a Democrat, and that you'll vote for Obama. Will you finally grow a pair, stand up for what you know is right, denounce the Bush gang that have led this wonderful country astray, and just say it!

    September 16, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. Katrina

    Unlike you and the GED crowd many of us will vote for Barack Obama because he is the candidate who shares our views on the issues. I am so tired of people saying that blacks will vote for Obama just because he identifies himself as black. No one complained when the earlier options only consisted of two white males. Who were we voting for then because of color?

    September 16, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. CarolynE.Williams Ga

    I thank Powell will support Obama, not because he's BLACK but because he know what John McCain is all about.

    September 16, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. ingramris

    Lis, deception and sexist card............... In presidential race without regard.................... To the truth for a people and country as a whole...................Hence, the McCain Campaign as the story unfolds........................Ads that distort and mockery led.............. Lies being told about something said................Laws abused on a field called change.................."Vote Obama/Biden Law Rules, Right Game

    September 16, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  15. Independent-Latina-for-OBAMA

    Sadly, tragically, Sec. Powell joined up with the wrong side! Bush/Cheney/McCain/GOP.......... threw Powell under the bus, when they had him make that statement in front of the UN, prior to the Iraq war! You could tell by looking at Powell he was pained, he KNEW his statement was base on................LIES. It was sad to see a great man, ruined by Bush & GOP!

    Mr. Powell, this is your chance to get some dignity back! Support the candidate you think would be best........... speak up!

    September 16, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  16. Hardy Takhar

    Colin Powell was indeed thrown under the bus by BUSH and the CIA who concocted absolutely false evidence on WMD. As Secretary of State Powell was forced to sell this dog and pony show to the United Nations. When he realized he was dealing with a totally incompetent Republican Government and was no longer going to be a "yes" man he quit promptly. He replacement was a lethargic "yes" woman Condi Rice who is another international joke.

    September 16, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  17. joe

    to me a non vote for mcain says it all by a well respected man.

    September 16, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  18. Anti-Obama

    I bet this guy and Condolizar Rice will vote for Obama because they are just racist as like many other Blacks. They vote for the color of the skin. Obama got their color, so they will vote for him no matter what!. That's just sick!!!!

    NO Obama (Osama)/ Biden (Bin Laden) '08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. Clay

    I served under Colin Powell on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I thought he was an idiot then and I continue to hold that belief today.

    September 16, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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