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December 9, 2004
Powell: I'm Not Running, Period

Colin Powell squelched speculation today that his retirement from the Cabinet had freed him up to run for political office. He categorically stated that he would not run for any political office in the future, according to the AP:

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he won't seek political office, dismissing suggestions that he run for governor or senator in New York.

Asked about a poll that shows him favored in a hypothetical matchup for the governor's race, Powell said, "I'm not going to be running for office even in my beloved home state of New York, as flattering as that poll might be." ...

"I don't think I've ever said I wouldn't be interested in public life again," Powell said. "I think I've repeatedly said over the course of nine-plus years that I've had no interest in political office."

Powell has been the center of speculation to replace George Pataki in Albany, and especially to oppose Hillary Clinton's re-election bid for the Senate in 2006. Three weeks ago, the New York Sun reported on a budding "draft Powell" movement among New York Republicans to derail Hillary's political career before she has a chance to run for President in 2008. However, as I argued at that time, that strategy had many risks for the GOP in a critical mid-term election:

Imagine that campaign for just a moment. Hillary will demand that Powell answer questions such as, Did you support the invasion of Iraq, or did Bush overrule you? Why did America fail to convince France and Germany to sign onto the rebuilding of Iraq? Why did foreign policy fail under your direction? How could you make that presentation to the United Nations when you opposed the precipitate action Bush wanted? The GOP would find itself forced to endure the 2004 campaign all over again, and Hillarys national media profile would guarantee that it would color every political campaign in the country.

This forces Powell into one of two responses, neither of which will be palatable to the GOP. Either Powell spends the entire campaign defending the Bush Adminstration, which won't exactly endear him to the New York voters who went for Kerry by 18 points, or he will be forced to air some dirty laundry about his policy disagreements with Bush and his national-security team. That option will put the entire GOP ticket on the defensive all year long and make it difficult to retain the 10-seat advantage Republicans enjoy in the Senate, let alone pick up seats in various red-state contests.

With Powell unequivocally bowing out of both races -- I thought he'd make a better candidate for governor -- it leaves the field open for Rudy Giuliani to pick whichever office he finds more attractive. I would expect Pataki to run for whichever office Rudy doesn't select, even if that means a re-election bid for governor. I don't think Pataki can beat Hillary for the Senate, but Giuliani has enough star power and credibility to beat her. The GOP should be working on a "draft Rudy" effort and accept Powell at his word.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 9, 2004 12:20 PM

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