Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president on this morning, calling the Illinois senator a “transformational figure” whose campaign is one of inclusion and representative of "a new generation coming onto the world stage."
Powell's endorsement certainly does not hurt Obama, and should bring him a few undecideds and centrist Republicans. Powell is one of the few Bush Cabinet members who still retains a significant amount of credibility (Gates - and to a lesser extent, the post-warhawk Rice - I also include in this short list). While it would be an overstatement to suggest that millions of voters will change sides, I think that Powell's comments will sway a meaningful number of independents, perhaps even several hundred to a thousand in some key electoral districts.
This endorsement also might signal a trend among moderate Republicans to position themselves for an Obama victory, or it might just be Colin being Colin. We'll have to wait and see what Powell's true motivations are: understanding this political enigma has been a source of much punditry the last 15 years, and Powell defies simple analysis.
But for the latest news cycle, the Powell endorsement is sure to keep the pundits and bloggers busy, and this campaign moment will completely defuse any stumping Senator John McCain and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin accomplish today. Moreover, as an important figure in national security and international diplomacy the past two decades, Colin Powell carries a great deal of authority even years after leaving the Bush cabinet. McCain will be hard pressed to top this endorsement, and the current strategy of repeating the epithets "terrorist" and "socialist" will not work to undo this PR coup that Obama just scored.