September 16th, 2008
06:07 AM ET
12 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. D&D

    He is a smart guy, and he has already made up hi smind!
    He's still looking for reasons to vote for McCain? I believe it's a nice way to say, "I don't find any reason to vote for McCain, I know who I'm going to vote for, I'm just not telling it now".

    September 16, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  2. Cynthia

    If John McCain continues to say what he feels is the truth but goes back and changes it because him campaign people told him to clean it up. Powell is an intelligent man and won't side with someone who thinks like that. There are some people out there who think of that saying "when the least of us suffers".

    September 16, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  3. Helene

    I have full confidence in Powell's judgment. He will vote for Obama because he is an intelligent man and has seen first hand the damage that Republicans can do to this country. Unlike McCain he is a TRUE patriot, not someone who will sell his soul and his country for an election.

    September 16, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  4. HG

    Aaron – while I understand what you're saying about partisanship & people picking their sides early on, I think some people are just so committed to their side of issues that it would be hard to give the other side a shot. I'm a Dem who really respected John McCain in 2000 & hoped he would be the Rep candidate back then. I figured, if Gore didn't get it, I could stand behind McCain because he was moderate. This version of McCain disgusts me, though.

    As someone who's socially liberal but fiscally moderate, I AM open to more independent figure heads like Colin Powell and John McCain '00. But I don't see that in this election cycle. So I'm going with the side I agree with more – the Dems. How anyone is still an independent at this point really surprises me.

    September 16, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  5. Russell Perrone

    The Problem here is very Clear. Let's Talk about this "wonderful" Obama. He's a wicked Phony!
    He says he's Black. He's NOT! He's bi-Racial. This sector exists and a strong Leader SHOULD in fact Recognize it! He's trying to take credit for being the first African American Presidential Candidate and possibly the President. He's stealing from the true black people we think of in this country. This guy didn't grow up on the South side of Chicago, not in Atlanta or even Compton or anywhere else that is predominantly Black America. There are plenty of qualified people in these areas who do not segregate themselves as this Obama is doing. He claims he was raised by his single Mom. How unique in our country today... duh. Yet in his ad or some propaganda crap i saw he visited this little village in Kenya, where his father, who was never around for him was from. Why not the little town in Kentucky or Kansas where he Mom, he praises so much was from. WAKE UP PEOPLE! His running mate if it had to be an athlete would be Walter Peyton or Michael Jordan, good picks, but why not Larry Byrd or Mia Hamm? His wife is also black, why not white or Chinese or Hispanic? This guy is not true to all of us and he will not win as a result, this will become very obvious i hope. Why not Hillary? Dumb democrats. She is the one! .....

    September 16, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. GA4OBAMA was powell who advised bush and mccain to not invade iraq. bush had powell looking like a fool when powell was lying to the un. and afterwards powell left the gop foolishness. so after that bad experience i'm thinking powell doesn't support mccain.

    September 16, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  7. Brian from Texas

    Well said Powell. We need to hear about issues. Not half truths and "gotchas".
    I'd be very suprised if you supported McCain.

    September 16, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  8. Obama-Junkie, IL

    No worries Mr. Powell. You are one of the many de-illusioned Republicans about the Republican Party this year. It's obvious to some of us Obama-supporters that you are strongly leaning towards Obama, but perception is everything.

    If Colin Powell were to endorse Obama, many of the so-called "conservative Republicans" would start branding him a sellout or in the tank for Obama because of his color.

    Same for Condoleezza Rice arguably the most powerful woman in the world who has not publicly complained once about the sexism and racism (I'm sure she has experienced) as NSA and Sec. of State.

    But yet many Republicans express the phoney accusations of sexism against Palin in her new national spotlight.

    September 16, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  9. Anonymous

    It's pretty clear that Powell supports Obama. After knowing McCain for thirty years, he can't see a reason to vote for someone in his own party?

    He's probably not saying because SOME people will just say "Oh, he's voting for the black guy."

    Same goes for Dr. Rice.

    September 16, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. Dana

    Colin, just don't want to make a call to soon. But Colin is really pulling for Obama. See Colin was smart to get out of the Bush administration right away!! I believe the Bush administrations will be coming up on some charges after they get out of office!! That's why they don't want Obama in office as President because somethings will be exposed!!

    September 16, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  11. J.C.

    There are more undecided voters than the estimated 10% by the poll of polls. I am waiting for real-time debates, in which no advisers can give any help on stage.

    September 16, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. JusLaugh

    Exactly. One smart man supporting another. He understands that voters need to stop dumbing down our government!

    September 16, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  13. AMIGO

    By NOT endorsing his fellow Republican, McBush (aka "McHoover"), Powell has i-n-d-i-r-e-c-t-l-y ENDORSED OBAMA !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  14. beevee

    Mr. Powell is a gentleman and a good person. He knows who could be a good leader to lead this country at this juncture.

    September 16, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  15. Jill American

    Who cares .. he lied.

    September 16, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  16. mbgoldie

    Mr. Powell, please give your support to Obama! We need you on our side. No way, no how, no McCain!

    September 16, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. larry buchas

    I respected General Powell for standing up to Bush & Cheney.

    I suspect he will put country first by endorsing Barack Obama.

    September 16, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  18. proud army and navy mom

    Powell is a sellout to george w, who finally came to his senses and left the administration.

    He still had a very strong hand in selling that illegal war, so he should be on trial with his fellow warmongers(bush, cheney, rumsfeld, rice) for war crimes.

    Powell gets no respect from this army, navy mom

    September 16, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  19. John in Ohio

    Even if his endorsement doesn't carry any weight, one more vote for Obama is always a good thing.

    September 16, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  20. TAYO, NY



    September 16, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  21. RobinLC

    Mr. Powell your country needs you please come out and back Obama. The current administration betrayed you and the Republican party needs to be held accountable.

    September 16, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  22. James in NJ

    The greatest and smartest Republican(along with Reagan) in modern times supports Barack!
    Hmmmm... who should I vote for?

    Barack and Jo in 08!

    September 16, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  23. Scott NYC Independent

    He's not undecided – he's republican and doesn't want to openly go against his party.

    September 16, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  24. Roland

    Look out Powell, you are about to come under some unfriendly fire from Repugnicans for not endorsing McSame.

    September 16, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  25. Old Fart

    Yeah, but what does he know? He thinks Iraq has WMD.

    September 16, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
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