Just a few days after Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's old senate seat Republicans in nearby Rhode Island think they can defeat Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Teddy's son.

His opponent, John Loughlin, a state representative, has already raised more money than any candidate before him who opposed Kennedy.

GOP Chairman Giovanni Cicione said on Wednesday that what happened to Martha Coakley could happen to Patrick Kennedy too.

"In this cycle, with a good candidate like we have with John Loughlin, the national scene shifting away from Kennedy-type politics, and independent voters looking for options, I think he's incredibly vulnerable," Cicione said.

Loughlin said the economy has to be the key issue "We need to put the money back into the hands of Rhode Islanders," he said.

Patrick Kennedy has been elected eight times but in recent months faced a tough battle with the Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island Thomas Tobin who ordered him not to receive communion because of his stance on abortion rights.

Kennedy has also had a troubled history with drugs and alcohol and admitted he was bipolar. Rumors abound that some of the successful team that led Scott Brown to victory in Massachusetts are headed to Rhode Island to take part in the Kennedy race. But Bill Lynch, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said personal problems will not affect Kennedy.

"The people in that district know him. They trust him," Lynch said. "They're aware of the problems he's had. He's dealt with that in a candid way."

Loughlin said on Wednesday that he had raised $230,000. As of December 31 Kennedy had raised $544,885 but if the race is close the national Republican and Democratic committees are expected to get involved.