The field of 2016 Republican presidential candidates is already crowded. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie and Marco Rubio are all said to be gearing up to win the bid. There’s been speculation about Jeb Bush, Rick Perry – and others.
But one other candidate might be emerging from this crowded field.
After being largely out of the public eye for years, he has quietly returned in recent weeks, offering up his two cents on everything from the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case to the Obama administration’s handling of the civil war in Syria. His takes have been informed, relatively moderate and seemingly palatable to independent voters.
That possible candidate? Colin Powell.
The retired four-star general and former Secretary of State under George W. Bush has been everywhere recently. He was on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, cautioning the Obama administration not to get involved in Syria. He called the Trayvon Martin verdict “questionable.” He said that voter ID restrictions passed in North Carolina would “backfire.”
He even partied with Jamie Foxx, Pharrell Williams and other celebrities in the Hamptons this past weekend, belting out a few lines of “Blurred Lines,” according to reports.
Powell is distancing himself from many of the foolhardy decisions he had a hand in during his time in the George W. Bush administration. His 2003 appearance in front of the United Nations, in which he argued that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, will live in infamy. But in a documentary that aired Monday on the National Geographic Channel, Powell distanced himself from that decision by saying that former Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the United States into that war.
AND NOW, THE OBSTACLES…
Powell has two major obstacles to overcome in terms of actually becoming a factor in 2016. The first is his age. He’s 76 now and will be closing in on 80 then. But by all appearances, he’s in good health and could withstand the rigors of a campaign.
The second challenge is the bridges he’s burned within the Republican base. Accusations that the GOP has taken actions to alienate minority voters and the fact that he’s tossed the Bush administration under the bus are not going to win him any accolades from the far right.
But this kind of moderation does appeal to moderates – which would be key to a possible Republican victory in 2016. So while he might not be a viable presidential candidate, a potential vice presidential position could appeal to these voters.
APPEAL FOR REAL
Even some within his own party have recognized Powell’s appeal. “Morning Joe” host and former Republican House member Joe Scarborough has said that winning Powell’s approval is key to winning national elections.
“[In] 2012, Republicans got punished because they were the party of Todd Akin instead of the party of Colin Powell. They were the party of Richard Mourdock instead of the party of George H. W. Bush,” Scarborough said in February. “This is a party that Colin Powell wanted nothing to do with, despite the fact that Colin Powell is absolutely necessary if you’re going to have two wings of a Republican Party that can win national elections.”
But Powell's greatest endorsement comes from the most important Republican leader of the last 50 years. In 1993, Ronald Reagan awarded Powell the second-ever Ronald Reagan Freedom Award. In praising Powell, the president said this: “I know I shouldn’t say this, but I have a confession to make. I just might have had an ulterior motive for inviting Colin Powell up here today to my presidential library. You see, I am hoping that perhaps one day he’ll return the favor and invite me to his.”
Powell has said in the past he has no interest in electoral politics. But right now he’s in his third act in life – and people change. He would moderate any GOP ticket and attract swing voters. A Christie-Powell ticket might even be a feasible path for the GOP to take back the White House in three years.
Then again, given Colin Powell’s recent statements, who knows? He might be gunning for a spot on Hillary Clinton’s bench.