So, the biggest primary in the state's history is over and what have we learned?
First, money really doesn't buy an election. That is, it doesn't if your opponent also has a lot of money and can pretty well match you in the bang-for-buck category.It's true that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Cannon spent more than $5 million - the lion's share his own cash - on the election and lost.
But it's also true that Bob Bennett, the Republican who beat him, spent upwards of $2 million - the lion's share his own cash - and won.
If Bennett hadn't been in the race and spent that much, Cannon would have walked to victory. Cannon would have crushed Brent Ward or Ted Stewart, two conservatives who were defeated in the state convention, because neither man would have been able to buy the TV time or other media that Bennett did.
Second, negative advertising doesn't necessarily work, especially in intraparty battles. Doug Anderson ran negative TV ads - he doesn't call them negative, he calls them comparison ads, but let's not kid ourselves - against Wayne Owens. Anderson lost big.
Negative ads have proven effective in other parts of the country, even in Utah when used with more finesse than Anderson showed.
Cannon believes that Bennett's use of the spending issue in a negative light in rural newspaper ads harmed him. Bennett's rural ads were carefully crafted. They ran right next to big pro-Bennett ads but were separated by lined boxes. It wasn't clear to the uninitiated observer that Bennett even paid for them. In short, they slammed Cannon for spending too much but weren't directly tied to Bennett - giving benefit to Bennett without the downside "negative" connection.
Third, women candidates did very well Tuesday. Deseret News/KSL-TV pollster Dan Jones says that it's clear voters are giving women candidates the benefit of the doubt this year.
Enid Greene won in the GOP 2nd Congressional District race, and Jan Graham won in the Democratic attorney general race.
Fourth, when push came to shove, a lot of Utahns voted Republican rather than Democratic. Before the election, Jones figured that 60 percent to 65 percent of the voters would pick the Republican primary ballot.
But it appears that 68 percent of the people who voted in the U.S. Senate race voted in the GOP primary, while 69 percent of those voting in the governor's race picked the Republican ballot.
This is not good news for Democratic candidates this November.
Both the Republicans and Democrats had good, contested primary races. It's not like a lot of Democrats or independents went into the Republican primary because the Democratic side was boring or unimportant.
If an independent voter invested something in a Republican candidate in the primary, he or she may be willing to stick with that investment in the final election.
Fifth, fuzzy, feel-good TV ads may be out. In politics, if something works everyone copies it. And Bennett's TV ads worked. You must remember these - Bob Bennett's face so big on the screen you can't see his neck, quick cuts from one shot to another, often in the middle of a sentence. In later spots, some of the pictures of Bennett's head were even in black and white - all attempts to jar you and make you listen.
Cannon and Republican gubernatorial winner Mike Leavitt, meanwhile, stuck with the fuzzy ads, sometimes so soft-spoken you have to lean forward in your chair to hear them. Leavitt won - and maybe that's a function of the race he was in. Utahns want to feel good about their governor, so fuzzy ads may still work.
But Utahns traditionally don't have to feel good, comfortable, with their congressmen. They want their representatives and senators to go back to Washington, D.C., and give 'em hell. Maybe Cannon's TV ads made people think he was too wishy-washy to do that. No doubt about Bennett's ads in that respect.
Finally, perhaps the biggest winner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary wasn't Stewart Hanson. Maybe it was GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter.
Pat Shea, who lost to Hanson, had a clear general election strategy - beat the record of Bangerter's eight-year administration until the last dog dies. Even though Leavitt is only a friend of Bangerter - not actually in his administration - Shea was already referring to the "failed" public agenda of the Bangerter-Leavitt administration. (Shea always figured Leavitt would be his final opponent.)
A Shea vs. Leavitt final election could have seen Bangerter dragged through the political mud, defending himself without even being a candidate. Shea may have lost with such a strategy, but the governor could have retired from office more bloodied than applauded.