colin_powell_2.jpgWASHINGTON (AP) _ A top adviser to U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney backed away from his suggestion that fellow Republican and well-known general Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama because both men are black.

Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu issued a statement late Thursday saying Powell is a friend and he respects the endorsement. He said he doesn't doubt that Powell's backing of Obama is based on “anything but his support of the president's policies.''

Appearing on CNN earlier Thursday, Sununu said he wondered whether Powell had “a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.''

Host Piers Morgan asked what reason that would be.

Sununu said, “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 served as White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush. Powell is a retired four-star Army general who was secretary of state for President George W. Bush.

Powell endorsed Obama on Wednesday, saying the president got the United States out of Iraq, has laid out a plan for leaving Afghanistan “and didn't get us into any new wars.''

He praised Obama's economic performance, saying that while difficult choices are ahead on taxes, spending and budgetary policies, “steadily, I think we've begun to come out of the dive, and we're gaining altitude.''