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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Politics, Society | 21 comments

Colin Powell Balks at Endorsing Obama (UPDATED)

Camp Obama has had a lot of bad political news recently (Corey Booker, a slew of polls, Romney catching up in funding) and this is more of it: Colin Powell is balking at endorsing Obama (understandable this early in the season since he always holds out) and says Mitt Romney is a “good man” (a phrase unhelpful to Obama’s team and a sign that Powell could indeed endorse someone who was once considered a moderate Republican):

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that he’s not ready to endorse President Barack Obama’s reelection, as he’s also considering Mitt Romney, a “good man” he’s known for years.

“I don’t want to throw my weight behind somebody,” Powell, who endorsed Obama in 2008, said on NBC’s “Today Show.” “I feel as I private citizen I ought to listen to what the president says and what the president’s been doing. But I also have to listen to what the other fellow says. I’ve known Mitt Romney for many years, good man.”

Powell said he “owe[s]” the Republican Party some consideration.

The former Bush administration official said that Obama had some substantial accomplishments, but that he wished the president had closed Guantanamo as promised.

“I think he has been [transformational]. Not completely. There are some things that he has done I wish he had not done, for example, leave Guantanamo open. I would have closed that rapidly. He tried, he was stopped by Congress,” said Powell. “He stabilized the financial system he brought about stability in the economy. He fixed the auto industry.”

Despite these achievements, however, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff still declined to endorse the president.

“It’s not just a matter of whether you support Obama or Romney, it’s who they have coming in with them,” Powell said.

And it’s increasingly clear that Romney’s main support system is of GOPers allied to the Bush family. In fact, Howard Fineman argues that Romney is kind of an empty vessel that can and is being filled by others and the the real candidate running is Karl Rove (a Bush political family member). Fineman calls Romney “The Incidental Candidate” ready to go sown a path where others tell him to go get to his main destination.

Why is this bad news? Powell is a favorite of moderate Republicans (the RINOs largel exiled by today’s GOP), those who belong to the party’s Bush family wing, moderates, independent voters and centrists. On the other hand, if he endorses Romney it is likely to make conservatives more suspicious than ever of Romney’s “real” conservatism — but, in the end, conservatives will vote against Obama. What could make Powell balk at Romney: a sharp turn to the right, a big use of the racial card by Romney’s campaign, or the use of the racial issue by a Super PAC that gets lots of attention and is not seriously repudiated by Romney.

Photo via Randy Miramontez /

UPDATE: But Powell defends Obama in some ways: