"A third of the Republican Party reacts negatively to anybody with any legislative experience," Coughlin said.
Playing to that portion of the party, Kwasman and Kiehne have turned the focus to Tobin's shortcomings as a conservative while serving as speaker, and to the fact that Tobin does not live in the district.
"I'd call him a carpetbagger, but a carpetbagger is someone who moves in to run," Kwasman quipped in an interview.
As Kwasman and Kiehne gather supporters, Republicans face the very real prospect of nominating a candidate who is gaffe-prone, financially ineffective, or both. That would effectively end the race before it starts, said Stan Barnes, a Republican consultant and former state senator.
"If Kwasman wins, the NRCC will probably score the district as a loss and may throw some token money at it but won't really go in," Barnes said. So far, the National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $1.95 million in airtime in the district in the fall.
Earlier this week, Kwasman's campaign hit a low point when he claimed in an interview to have seen migrant children being bused to Arizona, and even recounted "the fear on their faces" before being informed by a reporter that the children he saw were from a local school district on a bus to a YMCA camp.
Kwasman has also struggled to raise funds. He raised less than $75,000 in the second quarter of the year, and had only $88,000 cash on hand. Tobin and Kiehne both had far more cash, and Kirkpatrick has about twice as much as all three Republicans combined.
About two weeks before filing his fundraising report, Kwasman promised "a huge increase from last quarter to this quarter." That was technically true — he raised only $28,000 in the first quarter, which is why his opponents see money as Kwasman's biggest weakness if he were to advance to the general election.
"You've got to have resources, and he doesn't," said Chris Baker, a spokesman for Kiehne's campaign, who described Kwasman's candidacy as "underfunded and loud."
Kiehne, meanwhile, has had even more unfortunate quotes that would come back to haunt him in the general election. He claimed in a debate that "99 percent of [mass shootings] have been by Democrats pulling their guns out and shooting people." He also reportedly compared police officers evacuating residents during a wildfire to the Nazi SS in an interview with The Arizona Republic.
Kiehne "would be a poster child for Democrats if he were able to win" the primary, Coughlin said.
Tobin, meanwhile, has tried to draw attention to Kwasman's and Kiehne's mistakes, although this has directed voters' ire toward the Republican field rather than Kirkpatrick. He called on Kiehne to drop out of the race after his comment on shootings, and his campaign accused Kwasman of playing into liberals' hands after his embarrassing interview.