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. carolflowery

    Maybe Colin Powell should call Iraqi leader and ask about this:

    Obama held a 2 hour meeting with Hoshyar Zebari in Iraq, and now calls him a liar. Who do you believe?
    Why would Zebari make something up? Obama met with him he does not otherwise know him. This NY Post article is not something slapped together from some anonymous source. The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, WENT ON RECORD with this.

    Obama’s request for a delay (of withdrawal) was a major theme of his talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in an interview with the New York Post. Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops – and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion." (In other words, he was saying "I'm in charge now"). Obama also tried to persuade the U.S. commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to offer a “realistic withdrawal date,” the Post reported. The commanders declined, the newspaper said.

    September 16, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  2. Tired of W, OH

    He's a smart man that was used to spread Bush's propoganda/lies. I'm sure he'll make the right choice and vote for Obama/Biden. He's much too smart to risk putting Palin in the oval office.

    September 16, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. Gina

    For Mark,
    Your comments show your ignorance and insult every African American. Are you suggesting that African Americans can not think for themselves, that African Americans are not intelligent enough to make a decision based on policies ? John Mccain is more of the same failed Bush policies. It is obvious he wont offer anything different than the same failed policies of the last 8 years. Some "black" people will vote for Obama because he is black just as some white people will vote for Mccain because he is white but you should not imply that Obama is only getting the black vote because of the color of his skin. You need to grow up! Jesse Jackson ran for president and did not get the kind of support from African Americans as Obama. Stop with the sterotypes. If Powell supports Obama, just maybe it is because he is tired of the same old politics and really wants change. Or because he is black, he can't make an informed decision?

    September 16, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  4. Sylvia of Florida

    .......and BRUTUS WAS AN HONORABLE MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  5. Michigan Voter

    To Mark and his Nobama comments (real original)
    You say that the truth will come out. There may be some people that are voting simply based on race, however, my guess would be that they are people like you. People would would not vote for Obama BECAUSE he is a black man. Wake Up People!

    There are so many people that I talk to that say I vote based on one issue only-Abortion! I frightens me to think that people are not concerned with the real issues, the issues that will affect their everyday lives. The Economy, Gas Prices, Childcare, Heath Care, their children's Education. These are the issues that will impact everyone for generations to come. I agree abortion is a horrible thing, and I am anti-abortion and personally would never ever consider it as an option, however, I am pro-choice because I do not think that I have the right to tell my neighbor what she can do with her body. Should Gen Powell decide to back Obama, maybe just maybe its because he believes it is in the best interest of this country, not simply because he is a black man!

    September 16, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |

    I respect Colin Powell to the upmost. However, if he has not decided by now then tell me who did he cast his vote for in during the Primary?

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 16, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  7. mike

    he sells this (his) country into a war for "W", he should stay silent.

    September 16, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  8. US Terrorist in Iraq

    What do you think about when you lock your doors at night?
    What do you think about when you see your children sleeping peacefully?
    Are 9 11 and the invasion of Iraq related?
    How many Iraqis have been killed since 9 11?
    How many Iraqi women are prostitutes now?
    How many children are orphans?
    How many Iraqis were forced to leave their country?
    How would Americans feel if what happened to Iraq happened to us?
    How did the current administration convince Mr. Powell to go against his concerns (USA Today) prior to his infamous speech?
    Do most of the American people understand our invasion was legal racism for oil?
    Do the American people understand there can't be victory in Iraq, only murder and genocide for oil? Can someone explain that to Senator McCain and Governor Palin?
    How did the media get away with not reporting the facts?

    September 16, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  9. john

    I would be extremely disapointed to see Mr. Powel back Obama. It is ashamed the GOP could not have Mr. Powel as their candidate...... and this would not be an issue.....

    September 16, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. Jeffer65

    Powell is correct. Enough of the "lipstick on the pig" stuff. It's about the issues.

    September 16, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. ANGIE

    I Wish powell could of been vp i like joe but powell is great powell you know what the republicans have done to this country, and the american people and powell you know john mccain will continue more disaster so come on powell endorse obama vote for him so we can save our future and our childrens future!

    September 16, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  12. Freedom Lovin Patriot


    September 16, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  13. Scott, Wichita

    Blue eyes September 16th, 2008 7:03 am ET

    what is the world take on the two candidates? the world known America to be the world peace head, yes. the world vote say that Obama leads with 85% to John mc cain 13%. BBCUser Poll Results

    Well, unfortunately for Obama, they can't vote, can they?

    I prefer Winston Churchill's words:
    Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.

    September 16, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  14. Miriro

    It is time for Democrats to clean up the whitehouse. The world is tired of America chosing uneducated presidents like Bush(Macaic) to lead us

    September 16, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. Celie Walton

    Timing is everything. Colin Powell will wait until the momentum is right and then announce his support for Obama. ( Possibly very close to the election) He couldn't possibly support McCain. Powell is too rational a man.

    September 16, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  16. Don

    If Sec. Powell knows both candidates very well, and can't decide between them, how are voters supposed to decide? Would he really go against his intimate knowledge based upon one or two debate performances? Or does he really think that the sincere soclalism of Barack offers promise for America? Colin Powell has been a great public servant, but a practiced life long loyalty to whomever is in power appears to have suppressed his capacity for judgement of who should be in power. Or maybe he is an honorable admirer of Barack but doesn't think he is ready to govern.

    Or is he waiting for a job offer? If he would disavow any role in any incoming administration, his credibility would be stronger, should he ever make up his mind..

    September 16, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  17. jason from woodbridge nj

    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.

    Mark you forgot to mention all the biggots who won't vote for obama because he's black.

    September 16, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. mayah

    Colin is also a great pick to be in the OBAMA administration, he has excellent insights on Nation Security, and a wide view on foreign policy. He is to be greatly considered..

    September 16, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  19. Larry

    Powell for VP. Wait that's taken.

    Powell for President. Wait that not an option.

    Powell for the smartest guy in the US.............No doubt. He is a true hero and someone that I greatly admire.

    September 16, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. Ron from Baltimore

    Sec. Powell was so misled by the entire Bush operation that he disgraced his fine record in front of the whole world by claiming a case for invading Iraq. Why would he now consider even talking with the Republicans again?

    Certainly his support would carry much weight, would move some fence-sitters to view the election from the perspective that Powell's support would indicate. He either outright supports McCain at this point, or his silence is shown as support for the other side, the Democrats. So far, it's been support for the Democrats, and that is a very good thing.

    September 16, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  21. lisa

    Come on Powell STAND FOR SOMETHING before you leave this earth. Stop being afraid. People like you are like a piece of paper blowing in the wind. Where ever the wind blow you will find Powell. STAND FOR WHAT YOU BELEIVE IN YOUR HEART!

    September 16, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  22. arnolde

    Mark, you're right – the truth always comes out. It shows itself up in every sentence you write

    September 16, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  23. Mike

    For the Nation's sake it has to be McCain

    September 16, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  24. Dave

    this is why Powell would be a horrible President, cannot make a simple decision and have guts to tell people how he actually thinks, it has been, a long, long, long time since Powell had to make a hard decision (unlike Petraeus!)

    September 16, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  25. True

    PHOENIX–Thank you for those unbiased comments. I too consider myself a black conservative. Deep down I think we do have our religious values and do not want government to take over my every move of my life...However, I am truly with you when it comes to just wanting ta "fair" OPPORTUNITY to do better for myself and family. Wonderful comment.

    September 16, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
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