Okay, I just actually watched the Powell endorsement on my Tivo, and I think it’s a more devastating blow to John McCain than I initially would have thought. Of course this won’t move real liberals, who don’t like Powell much and are already committed to Obama anyway. Nor will it move conservatives, who don’t like Powell either. But there are people out there — lots of people — who, just like Powell, voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and then again in 2004 even though maybe Bush was a bit too conservative for their tastes. Now those people maybe regret having done so and see that Bush was a disastrous president. But at the same time, the Democratic Party seems to have shifted left, and nominated a relatively green figure, while the GOP nominated someone who has a reputation for moderation.
And now here’s Powell, probably the only Republican moderate with a meaningful national profile, speaking in detail about problems with McCain, about the process of growing disillusioned with McCain, and vouching for Obama’s readiness to lead and fitness for office. In a lot of respects guys like Jim Leach and Wayne Gilchrest have, on the merits, been better messengers for this kind of message. But nobody knows who Leach and Gilchrest are, whereas everybody knows who Powell is. It’s a signal to every right-of-center person who maybe thinks the GOP has gotten too right-of-center that Obama’s okay. Meanwhile, it’s a reassuring reminder of what kind of people Obama does, in reality, pal around with. Powell was National Security Adviser under Ronald Reagan. He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under George H.W. Bush. And he was Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Those probably aren’t the most impressive qualifications to hard-core liberal blog readers, but to Powell’s fellow moderate Republicans I think that’s a pretty heavyweight resume.