John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and surrogate for Mitt Romney, suggested during an interview with CNN Thursday night that Colin Powell endorsed President Obama because both are African American.

Piers Morgan asked Sununu to comment on the former secretary of state, who is a Republican, bucking his party to back Obama. "[F]rankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama?" Sununu said.

"What reason would that be?" Morgan pressed.

"Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him."

Early Friday, Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, e-mailed this statement from Sununu:

"Colin Powell is a friend and I respect the endorsement decision he made and I do not doubt that it was based on anything but his support of the President's policies. Piers Morgan's question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don't think he should."

Ryan did not respond to a question of why Sununu raised the issue of race in discussing Powell's endorsement in the first place. 

Powell announced Thursday morning that he was supporting Obama for reelection. The four-star general also endorsed Obama in 2008. Sununu's response to the 2012 endorsement echoed the reaction to the 2008 endorsement offered by Rush Limbaugh four years ago. He wrote in an e-mail to Politico: "Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with."

Sununu has made other controversial statements during this year's campaign. He angered some Obama supporters, particularly African Americans, for calling the president "lazy" after Obama performed badly in the first debate with Romney.