WASHINGTON -- For the first time, I got a feeling last week that Colin Powell is going to run for president of the United States. As a Republican.
It seems clear that Mr. Powell has found his international book tour intoxicating, as throngs have called him a healer desperately needed by his nation.
The retired general talks as though he believes the polls indicating that he would be the only Republican who could throw Bill Clinton out of office in 1996. The Mason-Dixon poll shows that Bill Clinton would defeat any declared Republican candidate in traditionally Democratic Maryland, but that Mr. Powell would defeat Mr. Clinton handily in that state. A Command Research poll in New Hampshire indicates that if Mr. Powell enters that important primary, he would immediately become the GOP front-runner, with a 34 to 25 percent lead over Sen. Bob Dole.
In statements, Mr. Powell seems to have convinced himself that a black man can now storm the polling places and be elected as the nation's leader. Mr. Powell appears to believe that the Republican Party is not so far to the right, or so imbued with racism, that it would deny him its nomination even if he is a sure winner.
In recent days, Mr. Powell has said that he supports most of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's conservative "Contract with America," without spelling out what he does not support. More startling, Monday on CBS, Mr. Powell moved from harsh criticism of the Christian Coalition to praising it for "focusing our attention again on the fact that we are a nation under God, focusing attention on the family, focusing attention on the need to love and raise children in a caring environment."
He added, "I am generally in line with the Christian right, although we disagree on some of the legislative agenda."
It seems clear that in a couple of weeks Mr. Powell has transformed himself from war hero and book author to typical politician -- a pol who is now courting all factions of the GOP.
The most fascinating question is whether they can ever be a team.
Carl Rowan is a syndicated columnist.