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. ChrisP

    You say, "Go ahead Powell. You are black and you are going to vote for Nobama. This is about race and you are no different from the other 99% of blacks that are voting for Nobama just because of race. Its evident that Nobama should not be our President but black people don't care about experience or leadership. Nobama is going to lose because people are voting for him for the wrong reason. The truth always comes out."

    I say, "Mark, you are an idiot! - back to your trailer!!! You are probably one of the Bubbas who would never vote for anyone outside of your race and gender!!! ~ It's the economy stupid!!!"

    Obama/Biden '08/12 With you or without you!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  2. ATLian

    Since when is a biracial person not African American?

    September 16, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  3. Chris Banner

    Of course it would electrifying,
    Radical change needed and there is only one person that can bring change to Washington, and that is senator Obama

    September 16, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  4. Tim in NC

    THAT is as close to (and as good as) an endorsement as you are going to get out of Powell. This man's honor and dignity are the only things keeping him from backing Barack after the Bush Admin. threw him under the bus presenting their lies to the UN.

    September 16, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Earl

    Not a question in my mind, here we go again, prejudice against the very people that got him where he is. Let them rule and they will not be nearly as nice to us as we have been to them. I have never denied them anything, but guess what, they still hold on to the hatred their parents have taught them, which is hate us!!

    September 16, 2008 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  6. CG

    The folks who make claims that blacks will vote for Obama just because he's 'black' are the same folks who argue that women will vote for Palin because, well, she's a woman. PLEASE. As a woman I'll vote for whomever I think is most capable for office.

    Obama/Biden '08

    September 16, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  7. I eat turkey in Iowa

    I always thought Colin Powell would have made an excellent president. I still think he would. Unfortunately, too many people would not want to forget that he was part of the Bush administration. I think it is very clear that both Powell and Condi are supporting Obama but are keeping quiet so they don't piss off their party. Fear of reprisal: another reason our party system is flawed.

    September 16, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  8. kobs

    Get off the fence and star the leader you are before Bushed triked you to lay ! With all due respect.
    "The paramount issue" of this years election is the Economy and only one man has provided any strategic response to get the US out of the mess of the republican party created.
    Obama, has been calling for more help for struggling morgatge owners to jump start the economy and if he was listened to and Bush did the right thing like he listened to him on the other pressing issues, it would have saved alot of pain !!.
    It made economic sense to help stop foreclosure and thereby saving the giants!! But now look at this!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  9. Go Sarah

    The silence exhibited by both Powell and Condolezza Rice proves that Obama's presidential run is fueled by the simple notion of electing an the 1st black american president. Powell and Rice have political beliefs that are the complete opposite of Obama. But they struggling to put these differences aside for the sake of history. Translation if Obama was white they wouldnt even consider him for 1 second.

    September 16, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  10. Karen

    We are all bi-racial on some level, mobius.

    Obama is African-American in the literal sense, since his father was African and his mother American.

    McCain has compromised his positions to appease his party and his party is corrupt and worst of all, cruel. I used to admire John McCain and even thought last year about voting for him if HIllary wasn't nominated. Not now, though. He's clearly too old, too out of touch and too easily led by his party.

    I'll vote for Obama this year. Over the last months I've found that I'm actually proud of him. I can't say that for the other.

    September 16, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  11. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    I would vote for Collin Powell because he does not want European Socialism for America and believes in a strong Defense of our country and would not weaken the Armed Forces as Obama would and Clinton did. Collin Powell has the integrity and sense of duty and sacrafice that Obama does not have.

    September 16, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  12. John from PA

    This is why I'm glad (Powell) is not on anyone's ticket. He can't seem to make up his mind without seeking popular opinion. Why is it that he has to wait to make EVERY decision. Powell needs to stand for somthing or he'll fall for anything. That's NOT true leadership. He's a true follower....

    September 16, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  13. leapfrog

    The only people apt to vote for McCain/Palin:
    – people who will gain financially from a Republican in the White House (ie. the rich)
    – people who think the GOP actually stands for moral values (when in reality it's only focus is getting rich, but pays lip service to evangelical aims to gain support for it's money making schemes).
    – people who live their lives filled with hate for others not like themselves.
    – people who's only source of information comes from NRA pamphlets/hate radio/evangelical literature.

    A McCain/Palin win would signal we've gone back to the 1930s, with an ultra conservative court, a powerless legislature, and an airhead in office (since its likely McCain will not survive his first term)...can anyone say Great Depression part 2?

    September 16, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  14. rap

    Its crystal clear that he will vote for OBAma, its the power of Race over party,
    ITs unfortunate that people like Powell clearly demonstrate this kind of behaviour,.
    Powell is where he is due to the GOP, It should not be debatable on who he should vote for?


    September 16, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. Sam

    People are voting for Obama because they are tired of the lies brought forth by the republican party...McCain thinks the economy is in "good shape", yeah, maybe by his standards..this country is in the worst financial shape it has ever been in. Obama & Biden have a better grasp of what is going on around them, they don't live in a fantasy world.

    September 16, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  16. Joanne Buck

    McCain meant the American Worker is fundamentally sound and the best workers in the world and thus we will come out of this....for pete's sake when are they going to stop twisting words into something others have not meant. He said it was a crisis !
    WHEN WERE MORTGAGE REGULATIONS RELAXED AND SO MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO CONTROL WALL STREET & MORTGAGE COMPANIES? During the Clinton Adm folks and when was Nafta created – during the Clinton ADM. Blame those who put the strategy in law.

    I KNOW AS I HAVE 21 YEARS IN THE REAL ESTATE, MORTGAGE, APPRAISAL FIELD. We sent letters and no one listened......

    Who has control of the Congress for past two years and who is the Chairmans of the Banking and Financial Committees. – oh yes Dodd And Schumer – oh that's right they have been getting very low interest loans from Countrywide.

    Who is the # 3 receiver of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
    Obama folks.
    Joanne B

    September 16, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  17. Alex

    I would be shocked if Colin Powell didn't back Obama. It is payback time after the Bush Administration threw Powell "under the bus" and used him for the infamous speech in front of the UN Security Council that was packed with lies about Iraq's involvement in terrorism and the attack upon the US on 9/11. If it were only a matter of who deserves the White House based upon performance and honesty, no question the Republicans don't deserve squat. But now with the economy being so messed up and in danger of getting worse, I cannot accept Obama's proposed economic "cures" to get us back on track. But as time goes along, I'm nearly back to where I was four months ago in rejecting both these candidates because of the sleezie campaign both are running. Too bad Colin Powell isn't the Republican candidate because he's have my vote in a heartbeat.

    September 16, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  18. Ontaya

    At this point I think he already knows who he is voting for. Sadly America is only confused because one man is black otherwise this race wouldn't be so tight. For those who think that isn't true read an email from a friend of mine who lives in Florida.

    My dad and I ran into some vicious racism this past weekend at the flea market. I can't believe how small minded and narrow thinking some people are. For the first time I'm afraid that Obama won't get in and I'm sick inside just thinking that. My god, I can truly say that this man made me ashamed of my race. He was so racial my dad wouldn't tell the man who he was voting for (lied and said he hadn't made up his mind yet, course I already told you who we were voting for)....

    I hope the north is pushing hard because if this is any indication of how the majority of southerners are slanted we may have some real big problems on our hands. 🙁

    September 16, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  19. W Spivey Merritt Island, FLO

    Colin, don't you think it's time to get off the fence? McCain is an idiot and you know it.

    September 16, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  20. Martha - PA

    As a black woman, I am puzzled at how many blacks consider Obama a representation of us. Personally, I find him just a young man out to prove his worth after such a troubled childhood. If you look back through history, that has always lead to disaster. Hitler chose Fascism and Stalin chose Communism. Obama is chosing Socialism and I chose none of these three.

    My vote goes to McCain but I will hold him to his word on cutting spending. I just cannot trust Obama with our budget. He spent and spent during his brief time in the Senate.

    September 16, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  21. Loretta


    Your comments are so idiotic. Just like you, I've been voting for white candidates since the 1970's the question to be answered here is why are some white Americans having such a difficult time voting for an African American candidate?

    Or is it that I am wrong. Should I be voting for or supporting only African Americans candidates in the future?

    September 16, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  22. Paul C. Palmetto Bay, FL

    Powell lost any credibility with his little dog and pony show at the U.N..
    I wouldn't trust or listen to him if he told me the sun rose in the East and set in the West.
    A Republican, or worse, a political hack.

    September 16, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  23. Terry

    It seems to me that Colin Powell is just like Donna Brazile, pretending to not be in the bag for Obama.

    His undecided comment speaks volumes.

    We already know he will vote for Obama and that he is trying to be coy is the joke.

    September 16, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  24. J

    Byron - In case you missed it, America had some of it's most prosperous times in the 80's and 2000's. Where have you been?Obviously you don't know that in the world economy we are in, there will be good times and bad times. Conservative doesn't mean you are for yourself and no one else. It just means you would rather work to solve your own problems than have the government do it, unless extremely necessary. If you are doing things like working in soup kitchens, letting homeless people stay with you until they get back on their feet, helping people find jobs and other things like that, or if you are homeless, then you have something to complain about. Other than that, quit whining and do something to help improve things. It shouldn't matter whether you are Democrat or Republican, you should be helping solve problems instead of whining about it.

    September 16, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. Johnr

    I am an Independent and I have written Mr. Powells name in twice for president during the Bush Sr. campaigns. If Powell were to select Obama it would be proof to me how wrong I have been about this man.
    No one in my opinion can selcet Obama, during this time of war and economic stress who is truly a patriot, period.

    September 16, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
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