William Weld endorses Scott Brown while Caroline Kennedy backs Elizabeth Warren

Former Governor William F. Weld today praised Senator Scott Brown as the rare political figure willing to work across the aisle, shortly before Caroline Kennedy said Elizabeth Warren would fight for the issues championed by her late uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The dueling endorsements were unsurprising—Weld is a Republican, Kennedy a Democrat—but were symbolically important. Although Weld and Caroline Kennedy both live in New York, they can have an influence in Massachusetts, Weld through his political legacy and Kennedy through her family name.

Brown replaced Edward Kennedy in the Senate after winning a January 2010 special election. He is now seeking a full, six-year Senate term.

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“Our state and our country need more people like Scott who actually think about the issues, not just the political party or political dogma,” Weld said, with Brown at his side, at the senator’s campaign headquarters in South Boston.

Weld, who was governor from 1991 through 1997, said Brown has followed his model of social moderation combined with fiscal conservatism. He pointed to Brown’s attendance at three White House signing ceremonies during his relatively brief time in office.

A half-hour later, Warren stood with Kennedy and Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston before an audience of seniors at an assisted living facility in Charlestown.

“I know that in the United States Senate, Elizabeth will fight for seniors and for middle class families, just like my uncle Teddy did,” Kennedy said.

Both candidates responded to the latest jobs figures, which showed the national unemployment rate dipping to 7.8 percent.

Brown responded with some caution, noting that many workers have dropped off the rolls and that more jobs were created in the previous month.

“While they’re obviously a good start, we need to do more,” Brown said.

Warren called the numbers “a step in the right direction.”

“Of course I’m encouraged,” Warren said. “I’d be more encouraged if the Republicans would work with the Democrats to put more people to work and get the economy restarted.”

Weld said the current numbers are less important than the plan to move forward, and said that Brown would do a better job than Warren because he promises predictability in taxes and regulation while she would attempt to raise taxes and add regulation.

Brown was less effusive than Weld in his praise for the performance delivered by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during his debate Wednesday against President Obama.

While Brown shares political advisers with Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, he has kept his distance from his fellow Republican as he seeks reelection in what remains a heavily Democratic state.

“I think he drew a very clear distinction as to where he wants to go with his administration if it comes to that, on jobs and the economy and the economic issues facing our economy,” Brown said. “I thought he did well ... but I’m focusing on my debate Wednesday.”

Weld then added, “I thought he did pretty great.”

Many political observers have compared Brown’s race against Warren with Weld’s 1996 challenge to Senator John Kerry. Weld challenged early before Kerry beat him at the end.

Both Weld and Brown said the difference now is that moderate voices are more urgently needed.

Also today, asbestos union workers stood outside Brown’s press conference and said they were irate over Brown’s latest television advertisement that attacks Warren for representing Travelers Insurance as part of a lawsuit related to asbestos poisoning. The event was coordinated by Democrats, who are backed strongly by the unions.

The new Brown ad quotes Warren saying, “I’ve been out there working for people who have been injured by big corporations.”

A narrator then says: “Warren helped Travelers Insurance restrict payments to victims of asbestos poisoning. The results were disastrous for victims. The insurance company saved millions, and Elizabeth Warren got paid forty times what they paid victims. Elizabeth Warren is just not who she says she is.”

“He’s flat out misrepresenting the facts,” said Francis C. Boudrow, business manager for the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Union, Local No. 6.

“It’s offensive to all these people who’ve lost lives” to asbestos-related illness, he said.

Boudrow said Brown has refused to meet with him and his members, who showed up previously to protest outside his campaign headquarters.

The advertisement does paint a misleading picture of Warren’s work for Travelers. She was paid $212,000 from 2008 through 2010 to help the company in a Supreme Court case in which it wanted to secure immunity from lawsuits in exchange for releasing a $500 million trust to pay asbestos victims. In that case, most asbestos victims were on Travelers’ side.

But in a separate case, in which Warren was not involved, the company won an order that allowed it to retain its immunity without paying out the settlement.

Brown’s campaign argues she should have foreseen that result.

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