Powell: How Important Is the Most Important Endorsement of the Campaign?

By
Guess we're going to have to update our Giuliani movie Photoshop. Photo: Getty Images

The political commentariat seems to agree on two things right now: (1) Endorsements never matter, and (2) Colin Powell's resounding endorsement of Barack Obama (and blistering critique of John McCain and the Republican Party) does matter, somewhat. After all, this is no ordinary endorsement. It's not like when Wilford Brimley brought the "diabeetis" vote to McCain. This is Colin Powell, one of America's most respected figures, a Republican, and a black person that doesn't scare white people. But even this endorsement, paramount among pretty much all other endorsements, may only be useful for occupying the media for a day or two.

• Mark Halperin calls Powell's endorsement "one of great tactical importance," as it will steal some of the little remaining time that McCain has left. In addition, it's likely "his confidence in Obama to become commander-in-chief will resonate with many elites and voters." And Powell's image as a well-trusted and well-known African-American is in some ways "the perfect complement to Obama's." [Time]

• Ezra Klein doesn't "think that Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama is a huge deal one way or the other," but also notes that this is the type of story Obama needs to "sustain his momentum and run out the clock." [American Prospect]

• Hugh Hewitt says Powell is "a great American and much admired," but his endorsement will only affect "the .1% of the vote waiting around to hear what Colin Powell thinks of McCain-Obama." [Town Hall]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates agrees that Obama and Powell are "stepping on McCain's lifeblood here — time," robbing "McCain of oxygen." [Atlantic]

• Jennifer Rubin supposes that "those people who hold special respect for Powell and not very much for Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Alexander Haig (who all endorsed McCain) will be moved." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Mike Murphy writes that while he doesn't think "that endorsements mean much" in most cases, Powell's "is a real sledgehammer blow to the already staggering McCain campaign," because of his "across the board indictment of the McCain campaign," which will "boil across You Tube and do great damage in these closing days of the campaign." [Swampland/Time]

• Nate Silver thinks Powell's "endorsement might play especially well among the defense and military communities in Northern Virginia, which just so happens to be perhaps the most important swing region in the election." And combined with Obama's $150 million "fundraising haul," it could help foster the "the sense of inevitability." [FiveThirtyEight]

• Glenn Greenwald has "no idea what impact (if any)" the endorsement will have. [Salon]

• Jonathan Cohn thinks that it's easy to exaggerate the importance of endorsements. However, Powell's endorsement should "help Obama and his supporters discredit attacks on Obama's patriotism," and dominate one more news cycle. [Plank/New Republic]

• John Podhoretz says the endorsement could "suck up oxygen for a few days, and could potentially do damage to what appears to be a small degree of momentum McCain has found in the past six days," as well as "spur some people on the Right to say some profoundly stupid things on race." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Isaac Chotiner claims the Republicans "are making a big, big mistake if they start attacking Powell, thereby ensuring that the General's endorsement remains a front page story for more than 24 hours." [Plank/New Republic]

• David Swerdlick writes that while the "true importance of any political endorsement is debatable," Powell's "involves America's most recognizable military hero declaring a preference that could help undecided centrist Republicans and independents make up their minds." In addition, because Powell is an African-American respected by everyone, it "provides Obama with the all-American imprimatur of trustworthiness among an important slice of the electorate that remains uncommitted." [Root]

• Marc Ambinder believes that for "white voters who have inchoate worries about Obama's race, it helps to have him associated with a man whose race they've already gotten over," although "this cohort of people is tiny." [Atlantic]

• Chuck Todd and friends suspect "Powell’s rejection of Palin … will probably lead to more anti-Palin commentary from the right," but it's "tough to measure" how voters are affected by his endorsement. More important to Obama is "the impact Powell will have on the news cycle with the opinion intelligentsia." [First Read/MSNBC]

• Noam Scheiber contends that, while "Powell helps marginally with military types and moderate Republicans, and he'll rob McCain of at least two news cycles," his endorsement isn't "changing the dynamic of the race so much as affirming it." [Stump/New Republic]

Earlier: So Who Thought Colin Powell Only Endorsed Obama Because He’s Black?

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.