Kevin Drum kind of answered his own question here, but certainly my reaction to Colin Powell coming out and supporting Barack Obama and “the possibility of him having any influence in an Obama administration” would have everything to do with what Powell actually said. There’s a kind of notional shadow Powell who we’ve all heard about — this guy thought invading Iraq was a terrible idea, thinks Dick Cheney is a dangerous madnam, and is furious at George W. Bush for running the government in such a terrible way.
Call that guy “Larry Wilkerson”. “Larry Wilkerson” is a great guy — someone who’ll not only give the Bush administration and the neocons around McCain hell, but someone who can speak with authority as a former insider. But in public, Powell has always been, well, Colin Powell — a mild-mannered dude who ultimately put his reputation for moderation and good sense to work providing a patina of cover to the insane agenda of the Bush administration’s neoconservative faction. If Powell decides to becomes Larry Wilkerson that could be a huge asset to Obama. But if Powell stays Powell, it’s not just that an endorsement would likely feel a bit icky, it’s hard to imagine the endorsement even happening. Powell wouldn’t endorse Obama. Some of Powell’s friends would tell reporters off the record that Powell prefers Obama, while Powell himself stays studiously neutral. And since Powell is Powell, I think that’s what Powell will do.