FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama won the support of former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday and announced he raised a record $150 million last month, dealing a double blow to rival John McCain’s U.S. presidential campaign.
McCain, despite trailing in opinion polls and fundraising, said he still expects to win the November 4 election and could sense “things are heading our way.”
Powell, who served several Republican presidents including George W. Bush as his first secretary of state, said either candidate would make a good president but he was critical of McCain’s uncertainty on how to deal with the economic crisis.
Powell, who in the past was mentioned as possibly the first black U.S. president, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he backed Obama “because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he’s reaching out all across America, because of who he is.”
“I think he is a transformational figure,” Powell said of the man who could become the first black president. “His is a new generation coming ... onto the world stage, American stage.”
Powell’s backing of Obama, 47, could give a boost to the foreign policy and national security credentials of the first-term Illinois senator and appeal to moderates and independents.
But the impact of endorsements on voters is questionable and Powell’s reputation was somewhat tarnished by making the case for invading Iraq to the United Nations on the false claims that it possessed weapons of mass destruction.
In the midst of economic turmoil and with just over two weeks to go until the election, Obama leads in national polls and in many battleground states but McCain said he sees some movement in his direction.
Obama’s lead over McCain has dropped to 3 points, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday. Obama leads McCain 48 to 45 percent among likely U.S. voters, down 1 percentage point from Saturday.
“We’re very happy with the way the campaign is going,” McCain said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I’ve been on enough campaigns, my friend, to sense enthusiasm and momentum, and we’ve got it.”
LOVES THE UNDERDOG ROLE
McCain, 72, said he did not mind being behind in polls.
“And I love being the underdog. You know every time that I’ve gotten ahead, somehow I’ve messed it up,” he said, referring to the times he has been written off as a candidate.
Obama’s fundraising announcement highlighted his disproportionate ability to spend money and blanket the air waves with advertisements, sometimes by a margin of 4-to-1 over McCain.
By bringing in at least $150 million in September, Obama more than doubled the $66 million he raised in August, which had been a record. McCain has accepted public financing and is limited to spending $84 million for the entire campaign.
Unlike McCain, Obama chose not to accept public funding for his campaign, freeing him to raise millions privately.
The Obama campaign said it had 632,000 new donors in September to bring its total to 3.1 million. It said the average donation for the month was less than $100.
McCain again chided Obama for not living up to his pledge to accept public funds and warned of the damages of unlimited spending.
“I’m saying that history shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal,” he said. When asked whether Obama was buying the election as his campaign spokesman claimed, McCain said, “I think you could make that argument.”
McCain was spending the day in Ohio, a state he must win if he is to be president. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio and it was the state that put Bush over the top in 2004.
Obama was also in a battleground state with a heavy military presence, North Carolina, which had been expected to be an easy Republican win but is now in play for Democrats.
At Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg, the home of the 82nd Airborne Division, Obama called Powell “a great soldier, a great statesman and a great American” and thanked him for his advice over the years.
“He reminded us that at this defining moment, we don’t have the luxury of relying on the same political games, the same political tactics that have been used in so many elections to divide us from one another and make us afraid of one another,” Obama told the cheering crowd of about 10,000 people.
Powell said he has no plans to campaign for Obama and was not looking for a job in his administration but he left the door open to the possibility.
Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Jeff Mason; Writing by David Wiessler; Editing by John O’Callaghan
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