Obama 'Beyond Humbled' as GOP's Powell Says He'd Be 'an Exceptional President'

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama wasted no time basking in the glow of his latest big-name supporter, former Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican.

"Today, I am beyond honored and deeply humbled to have the support of Gen. Colin Powell," Obama told a crowd of 10,000 in Fayetteville, N.C.

"Gen. Powell has defended this nation bravely, and he has embodied our highest ideals through his long and distinguished public service," Obama said in a town that sits in the shadow of Fort Bragg, home to the 82nd Airborne.

Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reacted to the Powell endorsement, calling Powell "a longtime friend."

"This doesn't come as a surprise," McCain said. "But I'm also very pleased to have the endorsement of four former secretaries of state -- Secretaries Kissinger, Baker, Eagleburger and Haig. And I'm proud to have the endorsement of well over 200 retired Army generals and admirals. But I respect and continue to respect and admire Secretary Powell."

'Most Important Endorsement of the Campaign'

The endorsement by Powell, a retired four-star Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the first President Bush, was the buzz of the Sunday morning talk shows, with former presidential adviser David Gergen saying during a "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" roundtable discussion that it was "the most important endorsement of the campaign so far."

"What that just did in one sound bite," former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said during the same discussion, "is it eliminated the experience argument."

"This is an endorsement that has enormous dividend for Sen. Obama," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile added, "not only in helping to erase any remaining doubts about his national security agenda, his experience, but also it says that he wants to govern in a different way -- different than, say, past administrations where you relied on just his base or his party. ... It says that he's going to reach across the aisle. And perhaps this is a good way for Sen. Obama to put that message out in the closing weeks of the campaign."

Powell: 'We Need a Transformational Figure'

Powell had announced his support for Obama just minutes earlier in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Because of [Obama's] ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of this campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- we have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance -- he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president," Powell said.

"I think we need a transformational figure," Powell said. "I think we need a president who is a generational change, and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama -- not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. McCain."

Powell has been one of the country's most respected public figures, and both Obama and McCain have sought his endorsement for months.

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