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Romney backs fellow Republican Brown's Senate run in New Hampshire

By Ted Siefer

STRATHAM N.H. (Reuters) - Mitt Romney returned on Wednesday to the New Hampshire farm where he kicked off his 2012 presidential run to endorse Scott Brown, a fellow Republican from Massachusetts who is seeking support from the state's voters in his bid for the U.S. Senate.

Romney praised Brown, who moved back to the state where he grew up after losing his U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts to Elizabeth Warren, as an independent voice who could serve as a counter to Democratic President Barack Obama.

Republicans are trying to retake a majority in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate and Brown's campaign against incumbent Jeanne Shaheen is part of that effort.

Brown has focused his campaign on opposition to Obama's signature healthcare reform law, which polls show remains unpopular in New Hampshire.

"Do you want more mandates, or do you want an independent voice?" Romney asked the crowd. "Then make Scott Brown your next senator."

Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, won the Republican primary in New Hampshire in 2012, but lost to Obama in the general election.

According to a poll released last month, Shaheen holds a 10-point lead over Brown, 49 percent to 39 percent.

Brown faces two Republican challengers in the September primary, Bob Smith, a former U.S. senator, and Jim Rubens, an entrepreneur and former state senator.

Both Brown's Republican opponents and Shaheen supporters have painted him as a Massachusetts "carpetbagger" whose move north was motivated by political opportunism. Brown grew up in New Hampshire and moved to neighboring Massachusetts as an adult.

People attending Wednesday's event, however, said they did not see Brown's move in such a negative light.

Ruth Griffin, 89, said she thought the suggestion that Brown was a carpetbagger amounted to a witch hunt.

She said she hadn't settled on which Republican she would vote for in the September primary, but she said Romney's endorsement counted for a lot.

"We wouldn't be where we are today if Mitt Romney was our president," she said.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Doina Chiacu)

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