October 20, 2008

Obama Gathers Powell’s Support

By Kathy Kiely and David Jackson

Barack Obama scored two campaign coups Sunday: a record-breaking month of fundraising and the backing of former secretary of State Colin Powell.

The long-anticipated announcement, which came with praise for Republican John McCain but harsh criticism of his negative attacks, gave Democrat Obama perhaps the campaign's most coveted endorsement.

"He is a transformational figure," Powell said of Obama, vying to be the first black president, on NBC's Meet the Press. "He's crossing lines: ethnic lines, racial lines, intergenerational lines."

Powell acknowledged Obama's thin resume but said "he is surrounding himself with people who will be able to give him the expertise that he at the moment does not have." He criticized McCain's changing positions on the economy, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, and attacks against Obama that Powell said go "too far."

Powell said he doesn't intend to campaign or serve in an Obama administration.

McCain reacted stoically to the news from Powell, a Republican and the first black person to lead the State Department. "This doesn't come as a surprise," he said on Fox News Sunday, adding that he continues "to respect and admire Secretary Powell."

Obama's campaign said Sunday it raised $150 million in September. His fundraising total is $604 million, breaking all presidential campaign records. He has received contributions from more than 3.1 million people.

McCain, relying on public financing that Obama spurned, had raised $240 million through August. He's limited to $84.1million for the general election.

He criticized Obama for backing away from a pledge to accept taxpayer funds. "History shows us where unlimited amounts of money are in political campaigns, it leads to scandal," McCain said.

In a sign of confidence, Obama is focusing on "red" states. He plans stops this week in Florida, Virginia, Iowa and Ohio -- all won by Bush in 2004. Sunday's stops:

*In Fayetteville, N.C., Obama ran into resistance at Cape Fear BBQ and Chicken, where he stopped to shake hands with a mostly older, white crowd enjoying lunch after church services. "Socialist!" shouted Diane Fanning, 54, until she was shushed.

*In Toledo, Ohio, McCain had hoped to meet Joe Wurzelbacher, the plumber he made famous in last week's debate. But "Joe the Plumber," as McCain has dubbed him, was in New York doing interviews. "Joe, if you're listening, I'm sorry you're being put through this," McCain said. (c) Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. <>