John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor, told CNN that the re-endorsement of Obama by Powell – a Republican who served in both Bush presidencies but backed Obama in 2008 – could well be explained by the fact both men are African-Americans.
“Frankly, 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,” Mr Sununu told CNN host Piers Morgan.
“When you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
The remark prompted swift criticism on Twitter, shortly after midnight on Friday, Mr. Sununu released a statement backtracking, posted on the Web site of the conservative National Review magazine.
â€œColin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the presidentâ€™s policies,â€ he said.