Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich reacted this morning to Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., arguing, "What that just did in one sound bite... is it eliminated the experience argument."
Powell, the former secretary of state, announced his long-awaited endorsement Sunday morning, explaining that he is backing Obama "because of his 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."
In all-star roundtable edition of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," former presidential adviser David Gergen categorized Powell's announcement as "the most important endorsement of the campaign so far."
Tom Friedman of The New York Times agreed, explaining, "Gen. Powell helps a lot, I think, especially at this moment, you know. That's a real affirmation that the country can trust Barack Obama as commander in chief, and Colin Powell still has a lot of cred[ibility] with Republicans and Democrats."
Gingrich, Gergen and Friedman were joined in the powerhouse roundtable by Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican columnist George Will.
Brazile added, "this is an endorsement that has enormous dividend for Sen. Obama, 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."
The panelists also discussed the possibility of Obama falling prey to the "Bradley Effect," named for Tom Bradley, the African-American politician running for governor who ended up losing after having a huge lead in the polls.
"Twenty-six years has passed since the Bradley effect," Brazile explained. "I think we're looking at an Obama effect. He has increased, enlarged the electorate. He's bringing new people into the process. There is an enthusiasm gap that we've never seen before on the Democratic side, 20 percent more likely Democratic voters than Republican voters at this moment, so I think we -- I think the issue of race may be a factor, but it will not be as large a factor as it would have been, say, 12 years ago."
Gingrich agreed that "there is a racial effect on both sides, that African-Americans will disproportionately turn out and they will disproportionately vote for Obama, and they have disproportionately registered for a good reason. The Obama effect is real and legitimate. It's authentic."
And Will argued that Obama will gain more votes than he will lose on account of race. "It seems to me if we had these tools to measure, we'd find that Barack Obama gets two votes because he's black for every one he loses because he's black," he said.
Friedman added that the number of white voters who may ultimately support Obama may be underestimated.
"I think there are a lot of white voters telling pollsters, you know, we're going to vote for Obama, and they won't when the moment comes, but I think there is also a whole group of white Republicans who are telling their friends at the country club that I'm voting for McCain, and they're going to go...vote for Obama, because their kids are," he said.