NEW YORK — Colin L. Powell, the former Republican secretary of state and retired four-star general, endorsed President Obama’s bid for reelection Thursday and said he was concerned that Mitt Romney was ‘‘a moving target’’ on foreign policy.
In an interview on ‘‘CBS This Morning,’’ Powell also said he was ‘‘more comfortable’’ with the president’s views on immigration, education, and health care.
“I do not want to see the new Obamacare plan thrown off the table,’’ Powell said. ‘‘It has issues — you have to fix some things in that plan — but what I see is that 30 million fellow citizens will now be covered.’’
It is an open question whether his endorsement will carry as much weight as it seemed to four years ago when he threw his support behind Obama in the final weeks of his campaign against Republican Senator John McCain. But the president’s advisers had been waiting with anticipation of an endorsement, which Powell did not reveal until his television interview Thursday.
In the interview, Powell said the nation’s unemployment rate was still too high, but he added: ‘‘I think generally we’ve come out of the dive and we’re starting to gain altitude.’’
He praised Obama for his handling of national security.
“I also saw the president get us out of one war, start to get us out of a second war, and did not get us into any new wars,’’ Powell said. ‘‘I think the actions he’s taken with respect to protecting us from terrorism have been very, very solid. And so I think we ought to keep on the track that we are on.’’
On Afghanistan and other foreign policy concerns, Powell said he did not believe Romney ‘‘has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have.’’ He added, ‘‘There are some very, very strong neoconservative views that are presented by the governor that I have some trouble with.’’
He said he still considered himself a Republican but in ‘‘a more moderate mold.’’ He added, ‘‘That’s something of a dying breed, I’m sorry to say.’’
Four years ago, Powell announced his endorsement of Obama in an appearance on ‘‘Meet the Press’’ on NBC. He did not say during his interview Thursday whether he would campaign on Obama’s behalf.
NEW YORK TIMES
Romney ad appeals to N.H. voters worried over Navy fleet
WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney, doubling down on his contention that President Obama has allowed the Navy to dangerously erode, launched a television ad Thursday in New Hampshire seeking support from voters who depend on jobs with shipyards and other defense industries.
In the advertisement, titled “Our Navy — New Hampshire,” the former Massachusetts governor makes a patriotic appeal for increased defense spending and blames Obama for pending defense cuts that were also approved by both parties in Congress.
“The state of our Navy — the state of the entire US military — is crucial for America,” the narrator intones. “Our freedom depends on it. But so do many of our jobs — 3,600 in New Hampshire alone.”
The ad also seeks to portray the cuts as characteristic of an administration that has weakened America’s influence in the world: “Does President Obama know how much his defense cuts will hurt us? . . . Do they also expose how President Obama views the world and America’s place in it?”
By highlighting his repeated calls on the campaign trail for a larger fleet, Romney is trying to sway undecided voters in a state that could prove crucial in deciding who will win the national race.
The size of the Navy fleet was a flash point in the third and final debate between Romney and Obama on Monday.
The new advertisement opens with Romney’s assertion in the debate that “Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through [planned defense cuts]. That’s unacceptable to me.”
Obama ridiculed his Republican rival for the simplistic comparison.
“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
“And so the question,” Obama added, “is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities?”
But the shipbuilding industry is vital to New Hampshire and the broader New England economy, said Loren Thompson, a defense specialist at Source Associates, a consulting firm.
“Any increase in shipbuilding,” he said, “will be highly advantageous to Bath Iron Works in Maine, Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and makers of naval electronics in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.”
Shipbuilding and defense cuts are also key issues in the tossup state of Virginia.
Police investigate voter fraud claim
ARLINGTON, Va. — Police in Arlington have launched an investigation following the release of undercover video showing the son of US Representative James Moran, Democrat of Virginia, discussing a plan to cast fraudulent ballots.
Patrick Moran resigned as field director of his father’s campaign after Project Veritas, a group led by a conservative activist, released the video.
It showed an undercover operative pitching a plan to Moran that called for casting ballots in the name of 100 voters who rarely vote. In the video, Moran expresses doubts but tells the volunteer to ‘‘look into it.’’ Moran has said he thought the person was unstable and was humoring him.
Dixville Notch hotel won’t open as polling place
DIXVILLE NOTCH, N.H. — For more than 50 years, voters in a township tucked close to Canada have cast some of the nation’s first ballots for president at the historic Balsams Grand Resort Hotel.
Not this year.
The hotel will be closed for the Nov. 6 election, forcing Dixville’s 10 registered voters to continue the midnight tradition at a local ski lodge.
The Victorian- and Alpine-style resort, in the village of Dixville Notch, is known for its wood-paneled Ballot Room, where residents have cast their votes for president at the stroke of midnight on New Hampshire’s primary day and on the nation’s Election Day since 1960. The room is filled with political articles and cartoons from presidential campaigns and a special glass-encased ballot box.
Dixville shares midnight voting with Hart’s Location, which began the early-bird tradition in 1948. Most residents of that White Mountain village then were railroad workers who had to be on the job during normal polling hours.
By 1964 the townspeople had grown weary of the media attention and the late hours and did away with the practice.
They revived it in 1996.
Former Balsams owner Neil Tillotson, eager to steal the spotlight from Hart’s Location, arranged for the early elections by having Dixville incorporated in 1960 solely for voting.
The nearly 150-year-old resort was officially closed in September 2011. Two local businessmen who bought it for $2.3 million hope to reopen it next year.
The hotel this year was open just for one night — the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Jan. 10.