* Powell says country should stay on the track it is on
* Says Romney's foreign policy a "moving target"
* Former Bush official also cites education, economy
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, Oct 25 Former U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell on Thursday endorsed Barack Obama's bid for
re-election, citing the Democratic president's efforts to wind
down the war in Afghanistan and tackle terrorism as well as an
improving U.S. economy.
"I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on," the
Republican, who also backed Obama in 2008, told "CBS This
Morning." He added, "I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick
with him in 2012."
The move comes just days after Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney clashed over foreign policy in the third
and last presidential debate ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Polls show Obama and Romney neck and neck. A Reuters/Ipsos
online tracking poll gave Romney a 1-point edge on Wednesday, 47
percent to Obama's 46 percent.
Obama welcomed the endorsement at a rally in Richmond,
"I was proud and humbled to learn that we have Colin
Powell's support in this campaign. I'm grateful to him for his
lifetime of service to his country both as a soldier and as a
diplomat," he told the crowd.
The president earlier called Powell to thank him, White
House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One
before landing in Virginia, a battleground state where the
military vote is important.
In his endorsement, Powell said domestic issues such as the
economy, healthcare and education loomed large in his support
for a second term for Obama.
"When he took over, the country was in very, very difficult
straits, we were in one of the worst recessions we had seen in
recent times, close to a depression ... we were in real
trouble," Powell said, adding that housing market has started to
pick up, the auto industry has recovered and consumer confidence
"I think generally we've come out of the dive and starting
to gain altitude," he said. "I see that we are starting to rise
up," he said, but added problems such as unemployment and the
housing market still need work.
Powell also criticized Romney's foreign policy as
inconsistent and questioned the former Massachusetts governor's
ability to address the deficit and looming defense cuts.
"I'm not quite sure which Governor Romney we'd be getting
with respect to foreign policy," he told CBS, calling Romney's
foreign policy "a moving target."
As for the U.S. budget, he added: "It's essentially, let's
cut taxes and compensate for that with other things, but that
compensation does not cover all the cuts intended or the
expenses associated with defense."
Powell, a moderate Republican, served as secretary of state
under President George W. Bush. Some of Romney's advisers are
more conservative veterans of the Bush administration.
"There's some very, very strong neo-conservative views that
are presented by the governor that I have some trouble with,"
A retired four-star general, Powell was also chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H.W. Bush
and was national security advisor under former President Ronald
Republican Senator John McCain, a harsh critic of the Obama
administration's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,
blasted Powell's endorsement.
"General Powell, you disappoint us, and you have harmed your
legacy even further by defending what has clearly been the most
feckless foreign policy in my lifetime," McCain, the Republican
presidential candidate who lost to Obama in 2008, told FOX News
Radio's "Kilmeade & Friends" program.