The next Scott Brown?

By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  February 10, 2010


But whatever Kennedy's strengths, observers say the incumbent faces his toughest race since Vigilante.

Touting his work on job creation will be tough in a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment. And if State Representative Jon Brien, a conservative Woonsocket Democrat, follows through on threats of a primary challenge to Kennedy, the incumbent could sustain some damage headed into the general election.

Moreover, Loughlin — who estimates that two-thirds to three-quarters of his campaign donations have come from out-of-state donors identified through direct-mail and email solicitations — has a shot at building the $1.2 million war chest he says he'll need to be competitive.

And the state representative has a voter base and an experience with politics and the press that most of Kennedy's previous GOP challengers have lacked. "When the bright lights come on," one Democrat insider said, "he's not going to flinch."

But if Loughlin is to pull off a big upset — if he is to knock the incumbent out of what the political odds-makers still consider a safe Democratic seat — he will probably need help from forces beyond his control.

A major gaffe by Kennedy would prove helpful. Abject failure on health care reform. An economy that remains lifeless. Even a terrorist attack on American soil could help his campaign.

But even with all or most of that, Loughlin will need something more. Something a little more elusive — something like the strange fever that came over our northern neighbor just a few weeks ago, exciting a placid electorate and turning a blue state an unlikely shade of Brown.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at dscharfenberg[a]

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