Days before the primary election, Joe Cannon called Utah County "one of the biggest arrows" in his quiver.
Tuesday night the arrow hit the target but missed the bull's-eye. Cannon won Utah County by only 199 votes. Cannon received 23,315 votes to opponent Bob Bennett's 23,116 votes, according to unofficial results.That's a win margin of 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent, far from the strong finish Cannon needed on his home turf to counter Bennett's support in Salt Lake County. Statewide, Cannon lost by 7,766 votes.
"The way I could be really successful is if lots and lots of people turn out to vote in Utah County," Cannon told the Deseret News Friday. "Utah County is a real key to the likelihood of me becoming a senator."
Lots of people went to the polls - 52 percent of the county's registered voters, according to the election office - but it didn't help Cannon much.
No one imagined a dead heat in Utah County. Except, perhaps, Bennett.
Bennett said Wednesday his campaign realized Cannon's strength in two areas - rural Utah and Utah County - might be enough to win the election.
"The battleground became neutralize Joe in rural Utah and Utah County," Bennett said.
In rural Utah, Bennett's camp used newspaper and radio ads to reach voters. In Utah County, Bennett "put on a full-court press" of contacting anyone who appeared willing to vote for someone beside Cannon and spurring them to the polls.
Bennett's campaign found that meant voters in one of three groups: a hard-core group that blames Cannon (and Geneva Steel) for the valley's air pollution; people who felt uneasy about Cannon but weren't sure why; and voters who planned to support Cannon simply because he was the local candidate.
"The other issue that cut down there as it did in the rest of the state was the reaction to the excessive spending," Bennett said.
BYU political science professor David Magleby agrees Cannon's "campaign of excesses" hurt him in Utah County.
"We've seen an instance in which a candidate developed too much of a presence in a campaign and ended up calling so much attention to himself it ended up having not only diminishing returns but negative returns," Magleby said. "It seemed like such blatant self-promotion."
That's the comment Pete Kropf, president of steelworkers Local No. 2701, heard over and over.
"I personally feel that his expenditures to run his campaign made people wonder what he'd be like if he did make it to Congress, if he would spend that freely with our tax money when we are already in trouble," Kropf said.
Like Bennett, Magleby thinks Cannon's efforts at Geneva Steel cut two ways with the county's voters. Some praise him for the jobs the mill provides. Others slam him for the air pollution the mill emits.
Cannon also paid for his decision not to attack Bennett in any way, Magleby said. Part of the task of a candidate is to tell voters why they don't want the other guy.
"A lot of people were beginning to feel one negative of Joe's was the money he was spending. But people didn't know anything bad about Bob Bennett," he said.
Next to Utah County, Cannon expected rural Utah to be the other arrow in his arsenal. As he hoped, rural Utah came through for Cannon. Nineteen of the state's 29 counties tallied in Cannon's favor.
Unfortunately, they are not considered rural counties for nothing. In Daggett, for example, a total of 104 people voted. Unless a candidate carries the rural counties by a landslide, they're not much help when the ballots are totaled.
What's next for Joe? That's what a lot of people are wondering. When Cannon gave up his post as president of Geneva Steel last August, he pledged to return to the mill if his Senate bid was unsuccessful.
Pete Kropf, president of steelworkers Local No. 2701, said Wednesday quite a few Geneva workers are "glad the campaign is over and hope he'll come back and straighten out the mess we're in at the plant."
"We're trying to get a meeting to find out what he's going to do," Kropf said. "What shuffling they'll do will be of interest to everybody."
The Deseret News was not able to reach Cannon or Geneva President Robert J. Grow Wednesday.