Romney aide gaffe: Colin Powell backing Obama because of race

Romney campaign not helped by Sununu alleging Powell endorsed Obama because they’re both black

LAST UPDATED AT 15:00 ON Fri 26 Oct 2012

THE CHAIRMAN of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been accused of starting a race row after he said that Colin Powell, a former Republican Secretary of State, was only backing Democrat Barack Obama in the 6 November election because both men were black.

John Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire and White House chief of staff, was asked by CNN presenter Piers Morgan (video below) what he thought about Powell's announcement on Thursday that he would once again support Obama, just as he did in 2008.

Sununu replied: "When you take a look at Colin Powell you have to wonder whether that's an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama."

Pressed as to exactly what the reason was, Sununu went further and suggested it was because he was "proud" that the President was "somebody of [his] own race".

Predicictably there was uproar on Twitter, with thousands asking whether Sununu was backing Romney only because they are both white.

Sununu is "known for his blunt commentary" according to the Washington Post, while Politico described him as "one of the loosest cannons in the 2012 campaign".

But New York magazine commented that after a spell without any gaffes the Romney campaign "reclaimed some of its awkward glory" thanks to Sununu's comment.

New York Times blogger Frank Bruni was taken aback by the "shallowness and insult" of the remark. "At what point will Mitt Romney and his campaign staff gently escort John Sununu away from the television cameras, tuck him into a cozy room somewhere, make sure he has adequate provisions and lock the door tight, so he can’t get out until November 7th?"

The row will not affect the black vote, said The Times. "Obama already enjoys overwhelming support among African-American voters - but [the remarks] may further distract from Republicans' central argument against the president's economic policies."

But why did Republican Powell back Obama? "Surprisingly enough, Powell made no mention of race when he endorsed Obama for a second time. Instead he praised Obama's handling of the economy in difficult times and expressed support for a range of his policies including healthcare reform, climate change and national security," noted The Guardian.

US political website The Atlantic pointed out that even when he was in office Powell had never supported a neo-conservative foreign policy, but noted that Romney has "mostly stuck with a hard line". Powell's decision was made because he was "nervous about Romney's overseas abilities" rather than skin colour.

 · 

Disqus - noscript

Is Colin Powell black? I can't say I've noticed. He doesn't look it.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.