October 19th, 2008
12:55 PM ET

The Impact of Colin Powell's Endorsement

John Avlon
Author, Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics

This is big – rarely do endorsements matter – but Colin Powell's announcement that he is endorsing Barack Obama for president was a bombshell that will reverberate throughout the last 16 days of this race.

It is not the unprecedented sight of an incumbent administration's former Secretary of State crossing party lines to endorse the opposition's nominee. It is not just that Powell's record of military and government service lends credibility to a candidate whose lack of executive experience and military service is a subject of doubt for many undecideds.

It is that Colin Powell has unparalleled credibility with Independent voters, and his performance on "Meet the Press" today reaffirmed why. He is thoughtful and measured, he puts patriotism and principle ahead of partisanship.

He, like many independents, has wrestled between support for Obama and McCain. He respects them both. He honors McCain's personal and political courage over decades of service. But what ultimately helped push him over to Obama was the selection of Sarah Palin and the negative and divisive tone of the play-to-the-base attacks from the Republican operatives surrounding McCain.

Today, Powell reaffirmed his leadership of the "common sense center" in American politics. Obama will need to keep faith with this constituency to win this election and be the truly "transformational leader" that Powell sees in him.

Filed under: John P. Avlon • Raw Politics