John Sununu, a top adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, suggested Thursday that Colin Powell endorsed President Obama because both men are African American.
Asked Thursday on CNN about Powell's endorsement, Sununu said the endorsement might be for reasons other than policy.
"Frankly, 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.
Asked what those might be, Sununu pointed to race.
"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," Sununu said.
Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff, is a frequent Romney surrogate and is known for his blunt commentary.
Powell, a Republican who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, also endorsed Obama in 2008.
The Romney campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Sununu's remarks.
Update 12:15 a.m.: Sununu, in a statement released by the Romney campaign, is now backing off his assertion.
"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," Sununu said. "Piers Morgan's question was whether Colin Powell should leave the party, and I don't think he should."