In Arizona Sixth, GOP's Quayle and Schweikert Fight to Finish

Pundits say Quayle can kiss Congress goodbye after bitter, personal primary skirmish with Schweikert.

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As the national convention unfolds in Tampa, a hotly contested Republican primary is set for a dramatic ending tonight as Arizona voters choose between two GOP freshmen in the state's Sixth District congressional race.

[Political Cartoons on the 2012 Campaign]

The race between 35-year-old Republican Rep. Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, and 50-year-old Republican Rep. Dave Schweikert will be the seventh primary this year where Congress members have been pitted against each other as a result of redistricting.

And in this race there is no such thing as friendly fire; there has been nothing cordial about it.

The candidates, both regarded as steadfast conservatives, have unsuccessfully attacked each other's political records, which are virtually the same.

When it comes to voting records, the two men have cast votes the exact same way on the last 20 bills in the House.

The race therefore has devolved into a series of character attacks.

"There is so little to differentiate them on substantially," says Jennifer Steen, a political science professor at Arizona State University. "That is the reason that the race has revolved around personal qualities."

At one point, Schweikert circulated an advertisement stating Quayle "goes both ways" in an attempt to depict Quayle as an insincere conservative. But the controversial mailer, which many took to have a bisexual undertone, seemed to backfire with Quayle walking away from the controversy with endorsements from both Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain and retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.

"[Schweikert] engaged in some interesting campaign tactics for a frontrunner. Most pundits regard him as the leader in the race," Steen says. "The flier was completely sketchy, though, and no one thought otherwise." [Ken Walsh: Swing Voter Focus Groups Shows Both Obama and Romney Have a Lot of Convincing to Do]

In another interesting late game-changer, both men were part of a congressional trip to Israel, where Kansas Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder jumped naked into the Sea of Galilee.

After the news broke, Schweikert attempted to demonize Quayle for also swimming in the sacred sea, to prove Quayle lacked the good sense necessary to represent Arizona in Congress.

Quayle's campaign rebuffed the charge, and said in a statement, "Rep. Quayle took a short, religiously meaningful swim on his own and acquired a vial of water from the lake to baptize his daughter." But Arizona-based GOP strategist Jason Rose says few are buying Quayle's explanation.

"Quayle was starting to get his sea legs, but the Sea of Galilee thing may have drowned whatever hopes he had left," Rose says.

The revelation certainly didn't help ease voters' uneasiness about Quayle, who has a record of skirting the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior for an elected official.

During his 2010 congressional run, after initially denying the allegations, Quayle confessed to contributing to Dirty Scottsdale, a website that highlighted seductive photos of women and nightlife in the area.

Schweikert released an internal poll in August, which had him leading by double digits. The Quayle campaign disagrees with the size of the lead, but has yet to release its own poll figures.

Schweikert's advantage comes from his long history as a public servant in the state. Before being elected to Congress in 2010, Schweikert served in the Arizona State House and in 1994 became treasurer of the state's heavily populated Maricopa County.

Quayle, however, had experience as a lawyer when he ran for Congress in 2010.

"He wasn't qualified to run for city council, not to mention Congress," Rose says. "There is a residual resentment among many in the state about Ben Quayle's election in 2010. He was in a nine-way primary race, and it was clear Mr. and Mrs. Quayle were buying their son a seat in Congress."

But while pundits in the state acknowledge Schweikert's got the stronger ground game, both candidates have run an expensive campaign on the airwaves.

"This is the most expensive congressional race I can remember in Arizona history," Rose says.