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Colin Powell makes his presidential preference clear

When Colin Powell backed Barack Obama, some Republicans said it was about race. What's their excuse now that he's also backing Hillary Clinton?
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks in Providence, R.I.,  (Photo by Steven Senne/AP File)
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks in Providence, R.I.,
On Oct. 25, 2012, former Secretary of State Colin Powell praised President Obama's record and announced his support for the president's re-election. Exactly four years to the day later, on Oct. 25, 2016, Powell once again weighed in on the nation's presidential race, and again expressed support for the Democratic nominee.

Colin Powell said Tuesday that he is endorsing and voting for Hillary Clinton, NBC News has confirmed. [...]He has been highly critical of Trump, calling him a "national disgrace" but has also been critical of Clinton. But unlike many Republicans who say they can't vote for Trump but have also said they can neither back Clinton, Powell has come out for Clinton.He has been a tangential figure this election cycle as hacked emails show that Powell told Clinton when she was beginning her tenure as secretary of State that he used his personal email while at State.

Powell's support doesn't come as too big of a surprise given his criticisms of Trump -- Powell has referred to his party's nominee as a "national disgrace" -- though he obviously could've remained neutral.It's tough to gauge the impact of a development like this, though it's probably fair to say Powell remains a popular figure, despite his tenure in the Bush/Cheney administration, and one of the nation's most widely respected Republicans. Clinton and her team have made a concerted effort to reach out to mainstream GOP voters, telling them that this is one of those cycles in which they really should vote Democratic, and Powell's backing makes that pitch a little easier.But of particular interest is how Republicans might try to explain this one away.After Powell endorsed Obama, Rush Limbaugh accused the former Secretary of State of making the decision solely on the basis of race. In 2012, the national chairman of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, John Sununu, pushed the same line."I think when you have somebody of your own race that you are proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him," Sununu said four years ago last night.The arguments were quite offensive at the time -- they haven't improved with age -- and given the circumstances, Republicans will obviously need a new line now.As for the larger GOP context, the list of Republicans who've announced they won't support Trump is getting quite long, though Powell is one of a much smaller number of Republicans who've taken the next step of backing Clinton over their party's nominee.