Opinion: Colin Powell: Will he or won’t he publicly back Barack Obama?

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The Ticket was taken aback when Bill Kristol, citing ‘people who talk directly to’ Barack Obama’s campaign, created a flurry of excitement today by saying on Fox News Channel that Colin Powell not only was set to endorse the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, but ‘may well give a speech’ at the party’s approaching convention.

Kristol is an articulate, effective polemicist for the conservative causes he believes in and a top-notch editor of the Weekly Standard. But well-sourced among ‘people’ with direct links to Obama?


We were skeptical. And shortly after Kristol’s report, Powell scotched at least part of it.

Contacted by ABC News, Powell said: ‘I do not have time to waste on Bill Kristol’s musings. I am not going to the convention. I have made this clear.’

Kristol still may be on to something though; the ABC story intriguingly continued: ‘Powell ended the conversation without entertaining any follow-up questions as to whether he would be crossing party lines to endorse Obama.’

Powell is a past master at keeping the political world guessing -- most dramatically in the early stages of the 1996 Republican presidential race, when speculation persisted that he might dive into the contest. And, as The Ticket has noted here, here, and here, he’s effectively played a somewhat similar game this year, letting dangle the prospect of an embrace of Obama.

He never took the plunge in ’96. And whether he becomes a public presence in this campaign -- or remains on the sidelines -- will be one of the fascinating subplots to watch through election day.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credits: Alicia Wagner/Los Angeles Times (Kristol); Associated Press (Powell)