ABC News' Tahman Bradley and Arnab Datta Report: Republican Colin Powell announced his support for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sunday in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press".
"Because of (Obama's) ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of this campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities – we have to take that into account – as well as his substance – he has both style and substance – he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president," Powell said.
The retired four-star Army General gave a scathing critique of the McCain campaign and the Republican Party, saying he was "disappointed" by the approach the Republicans have taken on the issues.
"I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it. But that’s a choice the party makes."
He also expressed concern with the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's vice president. "She's a very distinguished woman and she's to be admired, but at the same time now that we have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks, I don’t believe she's ready to be President of the United States, which is the job of the Vice President. And so, that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."
Powell, who served as President Bush's Secretary of State during his first term becoming the first African American to reach that office, voiced concern over McCain and RNC campaign tactics. He specifically referenced the GOP's effort to tie Obama to former 1970s radical William Ayers. "This Bill Ayers situation that's been going on for weeks. Why do we keep talking about him, why do we have these robocalls going around the country...?"
Troubled by conservative whispers that Obama is a Muslim, Powell gave a passionate defense of Obama and Muslim Americans. "Well the correct answer, he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian, he's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is 'what if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no, that's not America."
He went on to share a story about a Muslim American solider who had died serving in Iraq to make the point that Muslim Americans love and defend America also.
Mr. Powell cited the economy as the most important issue the next president will have to deal with, and said that he's convinced Obama would better lead the country out of the economic crisis. "In the case of Mr. McCain, I found that he was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems we're having," he said.
One of the most respected Republicans in the country, both Obama and McCain had sought Powell's endorsement for months.