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Loughlin Race Attracts GOP Luminaries

A piece in The Hill, a Washington insiders' publication, has GOP State Representative John J. Loughlin II attracting support from big-name Republicans in his bid to take the Congressional seat held by retiring Representative Patrick J. Kennedy.

Republicans put themselves back on the map in the Northeast by stealing one Kennedy seat. And now, the last vestige of the Kennedy legacy has become a cause célèbre.

Rhode Island state Rep. John Loughlin has found himself the unwitting beneficiary of a concerted effort by 2008 GOP presidential candidates to take that other Kennedy seat — retiring Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s eastern Rhode Island district.

He planned to hold a fundraiser with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday night and has already gained commitments from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as well. Romney’s campaign team, which guided Scott Brown to victory in the neighboring Massachusetts Senate seat once held by Kennedy’s father, also signed up Loughlin as a client soon after.

“It’s going to be the next Kennedy seat to become the people’s seat,” Loughlin told The Hill. “This is the race. This is the one everyone wants to be involved in.”

But as Democrats David Cicilline and William Lynch, also vying for the seat, point out, McCain et al may not be electoral gold in a blue state like Rhode Island.

“The urgent issues this district faces I don’t think are going to be answered by a Republican presidential candidate,” Cicilline said.

A spokesman for former state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch said it’s a contrast they are happy to draw — specifically when it comes to repealing the healthcare bill, as McCain and Romney have advocated.

“If Mr. Loughlin wants to stand with the repealers and talk about repealing healthcare reform, we’re more than happy to have that discussion,” said Lynch spokesman Bill Fischer.

Of course, if Loughlin can stay on the radar screen - a difficult task since Kennedy announced he would not seek re-election and attention shifted to the Democrats vying to replace him - he's doing something right. (And talk of a GOP primary challenge from retired Superior Court Judge Mark Pfeiffer may actually help in his effort to stay on said radar screen.)

But a few celebrity endorsements, alone, won't sustain Loughlin for the long haul. The real test of his staying power may come with the next couple of campaign finance reports: can he continue to raise money now that the spectre of another Kennedy term, anathema to so many deep-pocketed conservatives around the country, has faded away?

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