Most of the time political endorsements — from most people — just don't matter much. Colin Powell is probably one of the rare exceptions. The first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first black Secretary of State, and a moderate Republican, the well-respected retired four-star general endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 instead of Obama's decorated veteran rival, Sen. John McCain, raising eyebrows and giving Obama a helpful boost. This year, Powell told NBC's Matt Lauer, he's keeping his "powder dry" — a military reference meaning he's prepared to act if necessary. Powell said he's impressed with some of what Obama has accomplished, but also called Mitt Romney a "good man" and said he owes it to the GOP to listen to their candidate. Then, on Wednesday, he criticized Romney's foreign policy team as "quite far to the right," before he endorsed gay marriage. When he throws his weight behind someone, will Powell stick with his 2008 pick, or his party?
Powell is clearly leaning toward Obama: If Powell's not ready to re-endorse Obama, "he doesn't seem to be leaping at the chance to support Mitt Romney either," says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel. In fact, given his T-shirt-ready thrashing of Romney's foreign policy chops — "C'mon, Mitt, think" — and plug for Obama's gay-marriage policy, "it's safe to say that Romney probably wishes that Powell would keep his mouth shut." I'd feel pretty good about Powell if I were Team Obama.
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Obama needs the endorsement, Romney doesn't: Because Powell threw McCain under the bus in 2008, no Republican actually cares what the general thinks, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post. But if Powell refuses to endorse Obama again, that could matter. On the Right, at least, Powell is now known mostly for "suck-uppery to the Beltway establishment," and if he's "contemplating withholding his support for the once-'transformational' Obama," that speaks volumes about which way the wind is blowing in the "Georgetown cocktail circuit."
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Powell's endorsement isn't what it used to be: The truth is, it's hard to know which way Powell's leaning, says Jacob Heilbrunn at The National Interest. "More diplomat than general," he's "always been prone to Delphic utterances." Also, the influence of Powell and other moderate establishment figures is waning, especially among Republicans — see Dick Lugar — so "it ultimately may not matter what Colin Powell thinks about either Romney or Obama. Many Americans may legitimately conclude: Who cares?"
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