WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell declined Tuesday to renew the presidential endorsement he gave Barack Obama four years ago, saying he wasn’t ready “to throw my weight behind someone” at this time.
The former chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Cabinet member under President George W. Bush demurred when asked if he was backing Obama again this time around. Four years ago, Powell caused a stir in Republican political circles when the longtime GOP figure endorsed Obama over war hero Sen. John McCain, calling Obama a “transformational figure.”
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Not so this time, Powell said in an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. At least, not yet.
“It’s not just a matter of whether you support Obama or Romney. It’s who they have coming in with them,” he said.
Pressed to say why he was holding back on giving Obama his blessing a second time, Powell told anchor Matt Lauer, “I always keep my powder dry, as they say in the military.”
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He said that Obama had “stabilized the financial system” in the wake of the deep recession of 2008-2009 and “fixed the auto industry.” Powell also said he thought the country was on the right path toward winding down the war in Afghanistan.
But he also said he thought Obama needed to work still more on the shaky economy and said he thought that he owed it to the Republican Party to listen to the proposals that presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will be offering, particularly on the economy.
Powell said he’s “still listening” to Republican ideas, calling Romney “a good man,” and saying he wasn’t ready to make a commitment to Obama.
Powell has been an enigmatic figure in the Republican Party, a man who’s name often has been mentioned in both presidential and vice presidential speculation, and the first black to rise to the position of head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Two years ago, Powell told graduates of South Carolina’s premier historically black university that, among other things, he had been particularly heartened by a recent event.
“That was when President Obama took out his birth certificate and blew away Donald Trump and all the birthers,” he told students at South Carolina State University.
Powell also supported Obama in the president’s fight to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the New START treaty with Russia.