Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, has declined to make an endorsement and suggested through emissaries that presumptive GOP nominee Romney would be wise to give Powell a call.
“I feel as a private citizen I ought to listen to what the President says and what the President’s been doing,” said Powell, a Republican, said last week on NBC’s “Today.” “But, you know,” he continued, “I also have to listen to what the other fellow is saying. I’ve known Mitt Romney for many years – good man.”
Powell’s chance at being a running mate has passed him by, but a change of heart on his part might signal that the historical significance of the first black president may now give way to more practical considerations and the respect many African Americans have for Powell could be persuasive.
On Wednesday, another former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice endorsed Romney at a fundraiser.
“We care about the future of this country and the future of the world and I’m delighted to join so many friends here in supporting and, in my case, endorsing Gov. Mitt Romney for president of the United States,” Rice said at ritzy fundraiser in San Francisco, according to the blog KultureKritic.
“We have to defend the country, not just from (a position of) strength and power but from a sense of values of who we are.”
A recent CNN poll puts Rice at the top of a list of people who Republicans would like to be Romney’s running mate.
During the 2008 campaign, before Sen. John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, there was speculation he would choose a black or Latino for the vice presidential slot to try to help the GOP put a dent in the Democratic Party’s hold on black and Hispanic voters.
While Republicans knew they wouldn’t be able to swing a large number of black voters, they estimated that a shift of as little as 5 percent of black voters would be enough to turn the tide.
The numbers game is especially important for Romney, who has not been fully embraced by the far right wing of the GOP, which may decide to sit out the race rather than vote for a man they believe to be a closet moderate, even as they say Obama must go.
As black progressives and those religious blacks still angry over Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage debate whether to sit out the election, Republicans are doing the math to determine if they can get those voters to the polls for Romney.
The gay marriage issue backfired, to some degree however, as the bully pulpit effect seems to have helped the president.
At the time of Obama’s announcement, a Pew Research poll showed that just 39 percent of black Americans said they supported gay marriage, compared to nearly half of whites surveyed. Last week, however, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed support for gay marriage has risen to 59 percent.
But it’s clear that Romney and the Republicans are looking for every edge in what is expected to be a close race, even going so far as hiring Tara Wall, a former black television journalist and an appointee from the George W. Bush administration, as a campaign advisor on outreach to the African-American community.
To some, the idea that there might be a migration, no matter how small, of black voters to the GOP is simply preposterous. When it comes to the numbers game in a close race, however, every vote counts.