Colin Powell endorses Obama for president

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By The Staff

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a powerful figure in the Republican Party, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president Sunday, an endorsement that could help sway independents and moderate Republicans, especially in battleground states like New Mexico.

“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. (John) McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that,” Powell said on the television program, Meet the Press. “But I firmly believe that at this point in America’s history, we need a president that will not just continue, even with a new face and with the changes and with some maverick aspects, who will not just continue basically the policies that we have been following in recent years.”

Powell added that both Obama and McCain are qualified to be president, but that Obama is better suited to handle the nation’s economic problems and help improve its standing in the world.

“I think we need a transformational figure,” Powell said. “I think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain.”

Aware of the racial aspect of his endorsement, Powell, also a black man, said that was not the dominant factor in his decision, if it was, he said he would have made the endorsement months ago.

McCain disagreed that Obama is qualified to be president, saying of Powell’s endorsement on Fox News Sunday, “We have a respectful disagreement.”

McCain also mentioned he has received support from four former secretaries of state including James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger, Alexander Haig and Henry Kissinger.

While Powell described he and McCain as having been good friends for 25 years, he expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain’s campaign.

Los Alamos Democratic Party leader Mike Wheeler agreed.

“I think Colin Powell’s endorsement demonstrates a number of people think this election is about something other than party politics and because of that, campaigning has gotten very negative and it will take people like Colin Powell to turn this around,” Wheeler said. “No job, not even the president of the United States, is worth it if you have to go to these kinds of extremes in campaigning.”

Powell also expressed disagreement with McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

“I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States,” he said

Powell’s endorsement is significant, too, because he has distinguished foreign policy credentials.

He was secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s first term and helped make the case to the United Nations for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. A retired general, Powell also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf war under President George H.W. Bush.

Monday, Obama said Powell will “have a role as one of my advisers...whether he wants to take a formal role, whether that’s a good fit for him, is something we’d have to discuss.”

Another notable event related to Obama endorsements is that for the first time in its 161-year history, the Chicago Tribune has backed a Democrat for president.

Obama’s campaign disclosed Saturday that it raised $150 million in September, his old record of $66 million was set in August.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.