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By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. – Former Republican senator and Connecticut independent Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. endorsed Barack Obama‘s presidential bid Friday, saying the Illinois Democrat “has the smarts, quite frankly, to do a damn good job.”

Weicker, 76, said Obama’s positive outlook, vision for the country’s future and common sense made him the obvious candidate to endorse.

“Even though I’m almost 77 years old, I want a fresh start and a young start for this country,” Weicker said. “I think we’ve had enough of the old-timers in both parties.”

Weicker, a former U.S. congressman and senator, was elected Connecticut’s governor in 1990 as an independent under his “A Connecticut Party” label. He served one term.

Reached by telephone Friday while traveling in Virginia, Weicker called Democratic contender Hillary Rodham Clinton “a very capable individual,” but said he did not endorse her because “it’s time to get on with some new thinking in this country.”

An Iraq war opponent, Weicker said supporting Republican John McCain was never a consideration.

“Clearly on the issue of the war, there’s no way I could back him,” he said.

Weicker was a Republican senator from 1971 to 1989, but left the party and remains an independent. Despite his lengthy political career, Weicker said none of this year’s presidential candidates actively courted his endorsement.

“I’m a has-been,” he said.

Obama’s campaign said in a statement Friday that he is grateful for Weicker’s support, and “will continue to work hard to unite Republicans, independents and Democrats for change.”

Obama won Connecticut’s Democratic primary in February, collecting 51 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 47 percent.

Weicker lives in Virginia and is working with his alma mater, the University of Virginia, to sort and archive his Senate papers at its special collections library.

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