Saturday, October 18, 2008

The importance of a Colin Powell endorsement

Colin Powell is appearing on the telly box tomorrow. It is potentially conceivable that he just might possibly endorse Barack Obama. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on The Fix explains why this would be so important:

1. Turnabout is Fair Play. Powell is best known for his most recent job in government -- as the secretary of State for President George W. Bush. The idea that a high-ranking cabinet official in a Republican administration would come out for the Democrat is simply too juicy a story for the media to ignore. That it would be someone as high profile as Powell would only add to the titillation.
2. The Most Popular Man in America? Powell, unlike almost no other official with ties to the Bush Administration, has retained remarkable popularity ratings. In an August Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of voters viewed Powell favorably while just 13 percent saw him in an unfavorable light. A large part of Powell's appeal is his perceived bipartisanship -- a direct result of his decision to repeatedly turn down overtures to run for president in his own right. For a certain (not insubstantial) portion of the electorate, when Powell speaks, they listen. The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll reinforces that fact; more than one in three voters said a Powell endorsement of Obama would make them more likely to vote for the Democrat. (Hat tip to Jon "The Numbers Man" Cohen for the polling data.)
3. Iraq, All Wrong. Powell, thanks to his immense popularity, was the Bush Administration's choice to
make the case in front of the United Nations for the invasion of Iraq. Powell has since called that incident a "blot" on his record, and made clear his disappointment with the prosecution of the war. An endorsement of Obama, who built his candidacy on his early opposition to the conflict, would mark a clean break with the Bush Administration on the war and would add significant heft to Obama's argument that he alone possesses the judgment to lead the U.S. in a dangerous world.
4. The Final Straw. With polling -- both in the key battleground states and nationally -- showing that voters trust Obama more than John McCain to handle the current economic morass, one of McCain's last hopes is that the the election turns back somehow to a foreign policy focus. If Powell does endorse Obama, it would shore up the Illinois senator even if that eventuality occurred; it would be hard for McCain to slam Obama's approach on the war if the Democrat had a Powell endorsement sitting in his back pocket.

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