Democrat Barack Obama won the endorsement today of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican and fellow African-American who served as the country’s top diplomat in the first George Bush administration.
Mr Powell described the Illinois senator as a “transformational figure” and said that while Mr Obama and Republican John McCain are qualified to be commander in chief, Mr Obama is better suited to handle the nation’s economic problems as well as help improve its standing in the world.
Speaking on NBC television’s 'Meet the Press' today Mr Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of Mr McCain’s campaign, as well as in his choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
Powell says he does not believe Mrs Palin is ready to take over as president, if necessary.
The politically powerful endorsement from Mr Powell, a retired general and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, could do much to undercut Republican opponent John McCain’s argument that Mr Obama is not ready to serve as the US military commander in chief.
Mr McCain’s strongest campaign credentials are his long background in military and national security affairs, and he is a hero of the Vietnam war, during which he was held prisoner for 5 1/2 years.
He said he was not surprised by the Powell endorsement of Mr Obama, but noted he was backed by four other former secretaries of state and scores of past and present military leaders.