Powell Endorsement, Fundraising Boost Obama

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama comes as the senator raises a record $150 million in September.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Two major pieces of news this morning in the presidential campaign. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced this morning on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he is endorsing Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for president. Powell, who was secretary of state in the first term of President George W. Bush, was also chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton and served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush.

Powell, a Republican, said his party had moved too far to the right and that he disapproved of the campaign being run by Senator John McCain, whom he called a personal friend. Powell had this to say about Obama.

(Soundbite of TV show "Meet the Press")

General COLIN POWELL (Former Secretary of State; Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff): He has both style and substance. He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.

HANSEN: The day began with reports that Obama raised more than $150 million in September, more than double his own previous record for a single month. NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving joins us to discuss these developments. And Ron, how important is the Powell endorsement?

RON ELVING: You know, Liane, Colin Powell is not a state, he doesn't have any electoral votes, so endorsements are symbolic. This particular endorsement, however, is a potent symbol, because Colin Powell is a unique person in American political life. He is uniquely popular across the board, and he speaks to a specific vulnerability that Barack Obama has, and that's national security credibility. No one has national security cred like Colin Powell. And it's very hard to imagine him endorsing someone who would be soft on terrorism, as the McCain campaign has been alleging about Barack Obama.

HANSEN: What's been the reaction from the McCain campaign?

ELVING: It was sober. There was no attempt to portray this as unimportant. But John McCain came back by saying, but let's look at all the secretaries of state who have endorsed me: Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Alexander Haig, going back all the way to the earliest days of the Ronald Reagan administration.

HANSEN: And let's talk about the money. How significant is this large amount that the Obama campaign raised in September?

ELVING: It's an unthinkably large amount. I mean, we used to get very blown away by 30, 40, 50 million dollars in a month. This is three times $50 million in a month. It is two and a half times his previous best month. And it just gives him all kinds of ability in the last couple of weeks and shows why their campaign has been able to do what it has done in the last couple of weeks.

HANSEN: And he'll be spending the money on?

ELVING: Ground war, air war, every conceivable kind of way of taking the fight to the heartland of John McCain's voters in red states.

HANSEN: NPR's political editor Ron Elving. Ron, thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Liane.

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