RICHMOND, Va. — President Obama today said he was “proud” and “humbled” to learn he has the support of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who announced this morning that he is endorsing Obama for a second term.
“I’m grateful to him for his lifetime of service to his country both as a soldier and as a diplomat,” the president told 15,000 Virginians this afternoon. “And every brave American who wears this uniform of this country should know that as long as I’m your commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. We will be relentless in pursuit of our enemies. Those are promises I’ve kept.”
Powell, who broke with the Republican Party to endorse then-Senator Obama in 2008, offered his continued support for the president today, saying he’s concerned Mitt Romney’s foreign policy is a “moving target.”
“I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012, and I’ll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month,” Powell told CBS News.
Powell cited the president’s handling of the economy and foreign policy in explaining his decision. “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,” Powell said. “We were in real trouble.”
“I saw over the next several years stabilization come back in the financial community, housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it’s starting to pick up. Consumer confidence is rising. So I think generally we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude,” Powell explained. “It doesn’t mean we are problem solved, there are lots of problems still out there. The unemployment rate is too high. People are still hurting in housing. But I see that we are starting to rise up.”
Powell, who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, praised Obama for ending the war in Iraq and winding down the war in Afghanistan, adding that he “did not get us into any new wars.” The retired four-star general went on to call Obama’s actions to protect the U.S. from terrorist threats “very, very solid.”
Powell said he had the “utmost respect” for Mitt Romney but was concerned about his shifting foreign policies. “The governor who was speaking on Monday night at the debate was saying things that were quite different from what he’s said earlier, so I’m not quite sure what Governor Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy,” he said.
He also took issue with Romney’s economic proposals. “As I listen to what his proposals are especially with respect to dealing with our most significant issue, the economy, it’s essentially let’s cut taxes and compensate for that with other things. But that compensation does not cover all of the cuts intended or the new expenses associated with defense,” he said.
The announcement came as a surprise to the president and his campaign. Obama called Powell this morning to personally thank him for his support.
This story has been updated.