Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Sunday endorsed the presidential candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, calling him a “transformational figure” who has displayed “a steadiness” during his race against Senator John McCain.
“He has both style and substance,” Mr. Powell said, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He added, “Obama has displayed a steadiness; showed intellectual vigor. He has a definitive way of doing business that will do us well.”
While Mr. Powell and Mr. Obama have spoken occasionally, including a face-to-face meeting earlier this year, the endorsement caught the Democratic presidential nominee by surprise. Aides to Mr. Obama said they did not know about the endorsement before the television interview on Sunday morning.
Mr. Powell, a Republican and a retired U.S. general, also questioned Mr. McCain’s decision to chose Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as the party’s vice presidential candidate. Mr. Powell said he did not believe Ms. Palin was ready to become president.
In the appearance on “Meet the Press,” Mr. Powell also said he was disappointed by the McCain campaign’s decision to seek to tie Mr. Obama to William Ayers, who four decades ago was a domestic terrorist who violently protested the Vietnam War.
In offering his endorsement, Mr. Powell becomes the highest profile Republican to add his support to the Democratic ticket. Aides said it was not yet known whether the two men would campaign together – or what Mr. Powell would do alone – in the final two weeks of the presidential campaign.
Those talks, aides said, were underway on Sunday.
Mr. Powell answered reporters questions outside NBC’s Washington studio after taping “Meet the Press”:
“I think that Senator Obama brings a fresh set of eyes, fresh set of ideas to the table. I think that Senator McCain, as gifted as he is, is essentially going to execute the Republican agenda, the orthodoxy of the Republican agenda with a new face and a maverick approach to it, and he’d be quite good at it, but I think we need more than that.”