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Kennedy says Obama endorsement wasn’t intended as repudiation of Clintons

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    WASHINGTON — Sen. Edward Kennedy says his endorsement of Barack Obama for president wasn’t intended as a repudiation of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign or of her husband, the former president.
    ‘‘I have great respect for President Clinton and respect for Senator Clinton,’’ the Massachusetts Democrat said Tuesday on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show as he made a round of appearances on morning network news programs.
    Kennedy said he’ll support the New York senator if she is the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. ‘‘It’s enormously important that we elect a Democrat and change the direction of the nation. Should Barack Obama not get the nomination, I’ll support her,’’ or John Edwards or whoever wins the nomination, Kennedy said on CBS’ ‘‘The Early Show.’’
    He described the Clintons as friends. ‘‘I’ve known them a long time. I’ve worked very closely with the Clintons.’’ But, he added, ‘‘We need new energy. We need someone who can bring people together. People are basically saying that they want to new day and a new generation.’’
    Obama, an Illinois senator, appeared with Kennedy on NBC and said he was honored by Kennedy’s endorsement. ‘‘I have to make my case but obviously Ted Kennedy helps me get some people to listen who might not otherwise have listened.’’
    Kennedy praised Obama’s proposal to extend health care coverage and said universal health care coverage was ‘‘the passion of my life.’’ Sen. Clinton has been critical of Obama’s health care plan, which her campaign estimates would leave 15 million people uninsured.
    Kennedy, his niece Caroline Kennedy and son Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island appeared at a rally for Obama on Monday at American University.
    Clinton announced, meanwhile, that she had the backing of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former Maryland lieutenant governor. Townsend lost the gubernatorial election in Maryland five years ago.

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