Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says he remains a Republican, and believes the party should be more inclusive and moderate. Meanwhile, staunch conservatives are questioning his Republican credentials.
Colin Powell took on his critics during a nationally televised interview.
"Let us debate the future of the party," said Powell. "And let us, let all segments of the party come in!"
But some of the most prominent voices on the far-right of the Republican Party say Powell no longer has a say. Among them is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently told the CBS program Face the Nation that he is under the impression that Powell left the Republican ranks during last year's presidential campaign.
"He endorsed the Democratic candidate for president at the time, Barack Obama," said Cheney. "I assume that is some indication of his loyalty and his interests."
Powell - one of the most respected and best known black political figures in the country - chose the same program to issue his rebuttal.
"I am still a Republican," he said. "And I would like to point out that in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents, I have voted for the person I thought was best qualified at that time to lead the nation. Last year I thought it was President, now, Barack Obama. For the previous 20 years I voted solidly for Republican candidates."
He made clear he sees a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party between moderates like himself, and staunch conservatives.
Powell said if the party moves to the right, it will lose even more members.
"I have always felt that the Republican Party should be more inclusive than it generally has been over the years," said Colin Powell. "And I believe we need a strong Republican Party that is not just anchored in the base, but has built on the base to include more individuals."
Recently, Powell told an audience in Boston that a new Republican Party is - in his words - waiting to emerge. Critics responded by calling him a traitor to the party who should simply become a Democrat.