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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

On Call Exclusive: Obama Met Privately With Powell At His Office

Sen. Barack Obama and retired Gen. Colin Powell met privately two weeks ago in Powell's personal office in Alexandria.

Peggy Cifrino, Powell's spokeswoman, confirmed that the presumptive Democratic nominee and the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chatted June 18, one-on-one for about an hour at the Armed Forces Benefit Association, where Powell rents space.

"Just an informal conversation," Cifrino told On Call.

"There’s no looming endorsement," she added. "They came to talk about issues."

Obama's campaign declined to comment.

Cifrino said that Powell and Sen. John McCain met the week prior in Arlington.

The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation that Powell could back the Democrat, a sign of his disaffection with the Republican Party and the Bush administration. The nod could, of course, also carry weight with voters concerned about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. In poll after poll, the only consistent question in which McCain bests Obama is on the matter of who is best able to handle national security issues. A Powell endorsement of Obama would certainly be a blow to the Arizona senator's chief selling point -- that he is better prepared to be commander in chief.

Conservative columnist Robert Novak penned a piece June 26 in The Washington Post speculating that: "Powell probably will enter Obama's camp at a time of his own choosing." Later that day, in an apparent effort to counter Novak's suggestion, Juan Williams, NPR Senior Correspondent/FOX News Political Contributor, touted a McCain/Powell pairing.

The GOP is concerned, with good reason, about the impact Powell's endorsement would have on the presidential contest. Still, has Powell's cross-party appeal been tarnished by his support for the war? Would he help or hurt Obama with his base and more moderate voters who want their next president to withdraw from Iraq?

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