Kennedys shaken as GOP eyes R.I. too,"Camelot Crumbles As GOP Eyes Rhode Island Too."

The Kennedy political dynasty is shaking in the aftershock of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown’s earth-shattering election, with a new poll showing U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy losing ground as he faces a well-financed GOP foe backed by Brown’s top strategists.The WPRI-12 poll showed the Rhode Island Democrat with a 56 percent unfavorability rating in his district - a negative that grows to 62 percent statewide.

Only 35 percent of voters in Kennedy’s district said they would vote to re-elect him. Another 31 percent said they’d consider a different candidate and 28 percent said they would vote to replace him, according to the poll.Republican John J. Loughlin II, a veteran state lawmaker, formally announced his campaign yesterday against Kennedy, saying the son of liberal icon Edward M. Kennedy is out of touch with Rhode Island voters as he seeks a ninth two-year term.

“We’ve got a congressman who’s not connecting with voters or the people. He’s pushing policies that are diametrically opposed with needs of people - to get the economy going and create jobs,” said Loughlin, of Tiverton. “We can’t afford it anymore.”WPRI-12 pollster Joe Fleming said, “This is the best-financed challenger he’s faced since the first time he ran, and his favorability numbers are way down. “Congressman Kennedy could have a very competitive race.”

Loughlin, a 50-year-old National Guardsman, is hoping to ride the same wave that swept Brown to victory. He got a head start by hiring Eric Fehrnstrom and Peter Flaherty, two of Brown’s top consultants.The National Republican Congressional Committee has already begun lining up behind Loughlin, who says he plans to spend at least $1 million in the race.

“Independents are running from the Democratic Party, and that benefits candidates across the northeast,” said Tory Mazzola, spokesman for the NRCC.Other potential Kennedy challengers include Democratic State Rep. Jon D. Brien and even former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci.A Kennedy spokeswoman declined comment, but Tim Grilo, chairman of Rhode Island’s Democratic Party, said he’s not worried.

“I expect the voters will send Congressman Kennedy back to Washington to represent them with the same passion and experience he’s brought to the job over the last eight terms,” Grilo said. Kennedy, a proven fund-raiser, also took in $756,000 last year.