Colin Powell gives Obama endorsement for second term

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that he would again endorse President Obama, breaking from the Republican Party to support the incumbent president.

"You know, I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012 and will vote for him and Vice President Joe Biden next month," Powell told CBS News. "So that's an endorsement for President Obama for reelection."

Powell went on to praise Obama for his handling of the economy and foreign policy. Powell said Obama had inherited "one of the worst recessions we had seen in recent times, close to a depression" after taking office in 2009, following the presidency of his former boss — President George W. Bush.

"I saw over the next several years stabilization come back in the financial community, housing is now starting to pick up after four years, it's starting to pick up," Powell said. "Consumer confidence is rising. So I think generally we've come out of the dive and start[ed] to gain altitude."

Powell went on to praise Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq, essentially ending the conflict that began during Powell's tenure in the Bush administration.

"I think that the actions he's taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very solid," Powell said. "So I think we ought to keep on the track that we're on."

The former secretary of State said he had not spoken to either campaign about offering his endorsement, but had spoken with both candidates recently — although neither asked him for his backing.

"This is my decision based on my looking at it as a citizen," Powell said, adding he had "concerns" about Gov. Romney's economic and foreign policy plans, arguing Romney had provided a "moving target."

"One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal. Same thing in Iraq," Powell said. "On every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Gov. Romney agreed with the president, with some nuances, but this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign."

Powell did allow it was "a concern" that the president had not laid out more of an agenda for a second term.

"I think the president has started with a plan he issued yesterday, that he's going to focus on the economy, focus on debt," Powell said.

But the retired four-star general said he continued to consider himself a Republican, despite having now backed the Democratic presidential nominee for a second straight election.

"I think I'm a Republican of a more moderate mold and that's something of a dying breed, I'm sorry to say," Powell said. "But, you know, the Republicans I work for are President Reagan, President Bush 41, [the] Howard Bakers of the world, people who were conservative, people who were willing to push their conservative views but people who recognized at the end of the day you [had] to find a basis for compromise."

The Obama campaign said Thursday that they had not been told in advance the Powell's endorsement was coming, but that they were "very excited" for his support.

“We think it sends a strong signal about why he should be sent back for another four years to be commander in chief," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said aboard Air Force One.

This post was updated at 12:35 p.m.