Cardboard cutouts of Democratic Rep. Bill Orton hang throughout Chris Cannon's campaign headquarters as if the Republican foe Cannon dispatched Tuesday never existed.
The only visible reference to Tom Draschil was on the header of a computer program that the Cannon staff used to track voting results. "Tom is evil," it read.Cannon easily defeated Draschil in Tuesday's primary, sweeping all 18 counties in the largest geographic district in the state. Complete but unofficial results showed Cannon captured 56 percent of the vote to Draschil's 44 percent. Draschil came close to beating Cannon only in traditionally more conservative Utah County.
Now that the Republican in the 3rd Congressional District is gone, Cannon can truly set his sights on the three-term incumbent, whom he considers even more "evil." Orton is a Democrat, after all.
"We're going to run at his record. The change in (congressional) leadership has effected Bill's ability to run as a conservative. He has had to vote with his party," Cannon said.
Past GOP candidates in the 3rd District have tried that strategy and failed. But Cannon appears to have the money to make it a race. Even Orton apparently realizes it. Word filtered through Cannon headquarters Tuesday night that Orton backers called and urged Democrats to vote for Draschil in the primary. And Orton has already publicly condemned Cannon's campaign spending.
"It takes money to beat an incumbent," said Cannon, who estimates his net worth in excess of $20 million. Nobody wants to vote for a candidate they don't know, he said. Cannon aimed much of his campaign advertising during the primary toward Orton in anticipation of a November showdown.
Cannon intends to spend the next few months raising money. He figures he can haul in about $500,000 in contributions. That would put his entire campaign over the $1 million mark, a sum unheard of in the 3rd District.
Cannon said he doesn't think he'll have to inject more of his own cash into the race, but he won't rule it out. "We'll do what we have to do," he said.
Although Draschil wouldn't say Tuesday that he thought Cannon bought the primary, he clearly felt outmatched in the finance department.
"I think that the major factor was probably money," he said. "If we'd have had more money, we'd have spent more money."
Cannon downplayed the cash factor. Voters, he said, understood the philosophical differences between himself and Draschil. "Philosophy, I believe, played a big role in the race," he said.
Draschil earlier pledged to carry the Cannon banner should he be the GOP nominee. While he and Cannon have some clear differences on foreign trade, gun control and wilderness, they agree on most major tenets of the GOP platform.
Draschil argued during that primary campaign that it was he, not Cannon, who could oust Orton. After Tuesday's defeat, he said he believed Cannon can do it.
"Yes, he can beat Bill Orton," Draschil said. "It will cost him a lot of money."