The impact of the Powell endorsement

THE IMPACT OF THE POWELL ENDORSEMENT…. The timing couldn’t be much worse for the McCain campaign. Hoping to generate some sense of momentum, McCain was nevertheless hit by a one-two punch this morning — Obama demonstrated a stunning level of support with his $150 million fundraising haul, which was immediately followed by Colin Powell announcing his enthusiastic support for the Democratic nominee.

There is ample disagreement in political circles about Powell, and with good reason. His legacy is blemished by his role in the Bush administration, and his United Nations presentation on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

That said, as a purely political matter, Powell’s endorsement of Obama strikes me as a fairly significant political development. Powell is arguably the nation’s most popular and most respected Republican. He has been a friend of McCain’s for a quarter of a century, has seen up close what kind of leader McCain would be, and even contributed to McCain’s campaign.

And yet, as of this morning, Powell is officially an Obama supporter — and is officially dejected about what’s become of McCain’s campaign and the Republican Party.

Part of the significance comes from the importance McCain has given Powell. The man who just endorsed Obama is also the man McCain considered as a possible running mate. Over the summer, unprompted, McCain described Powell as “a man who I admire as much as any man in the world, person in the world.”

What’s more, today’s announcement becomes something of a trump card. As VoteVets.org Chairman and Iraq war vet Jon Soltz noted the other day, “For all the smears being hurled about ‘palling around with terrorists’ and ‘white flag of retreat,’ nothing can counter that like a Republican former 4-star coming out and saying ‘This guy loves America as much as me.'”

I’d just add that Powell didn’t just tacitly offer a vague endorsement, he offered his unapologetic support to Obama, while blasting what’s become of his old friend, John McCain. He sounded like a man who barely recognizes what’s become of today’s GOP. For self-described moderates and independents, Powell remains a widely admired figure. What’s more, few if any Americans enjoy the media adulation that Powell has, which means coverage of this morning’s announcement is likely to be very strong.

With that in mind, Powell’s endorsement this morning may very well have a significant impact.

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