John Sununu's explosive claim that Colin Powell endorsed Obama because he's black: The fallout

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

One of Mitt Romney's top surrogates quickly backtracks, but will his suggestion that race, not policies, drove Powell's decision prove costly?

Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, a co-chair of Mitt Romney's campaign and a top surrogate for the GOP nominee, said Thursday night on CNN that "you have to wonder" whether former Secretary of State Colin Powell only endorsed President Obama because both men are black. Sununu said that he applauded Powell for standing with Obama, "somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States." (See the video below.) Powell didn't mention race when he backed Obama, saying only that he was "more comfortable" with the president's views on everything from climate change to immigration, that he didn't want to see ObamaCare "thrown off the table," and that he was nervous about Romney's apparently shifting positions on foreign policy. After his CNN appearance, Sununu quickly walked back his remark, calling Powell "a friend" and saying he had no doubt that the endorsement was based purely on Powell's "support of the president’s policies." Should that settle the matter?

There is no excuse for Sununu's racist smear: John Sununu "should be fired from the Romney campaign," says Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. "This is not even a dog whistle. This is blatant racism." Sununu's weak attempt to walk it back wasn't good enough; he'd already suggested that Powell disliked Romney's skin color rather than his constant flip-flops. "The damage — and political filthiwork [sic] — is done," and Sununu should be done, too.
"The political obscenity named John Sununu"

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If he really didn't mean it, he should apologize: Sununu changed his tune a bit, says Adam Martin at New York, but he didn't apologize. And he should, as he did after his last incendiary remark in July ("I wish this president would learn how to be an American"). On CNN, he left little doubt that he believes "that Powell endorsed Obama because he's black." Romney has been on a roll, but, with one shocking gaffe, his worst surrogate restored his campaign to its old "awkward glory."
"John Sununu thinks he knows why Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama (Hint: It's because of his race)"

Actually, race really is a factor: Powell does support Obama because Obama is black, says editor-at-large Ben Shapiro in a series of posts on Twitter (via The Atlantic). He alleges that he's backing the president because Obama's a moderate Democrat and he's a moderate Republican, but Powell didn't endorse Bill Clinton, or Al Gore, or John Kerry. "Explain how Obama is more 'moderate' than Clinton, Gore, or Kerry," and I'll believe this had nothing to do with race.
"The simple, non-racial explanation for why Colin Powell is backing Obama"

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Take a look at Sununu's remark for yourself:

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Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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