It took state Rep. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, about three months to figure out he couldn't beat 28-year U.S. Senate veteran and fellow Republican Orrin Hatch next year.

Urquhart officially left the race for the Republican Senate nomination Wednesday, saying Hatch was too strong financially and politically for him to have a chance against him.

Hatch campaign manager Dave Hansen complimented Urquhart on running a strong, if brief, race, and also pointed out that Urquhart's latest Federal Election Commission report showed the challenger had $3,600.

Hatch has $1.9 million.

"I set mile posts to meet on a time frame," Urquhart said. "We weren't meeting those mile posts."

Urquhart announced his decision Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill as the 104-member Legislature held interim study committees and prepared for an evening special session on Legacy highway.

The majority whip in the House, Urquhart said he had strong support from fellow GOP legislators but not much beyond that.

Political insiders said Hatch didn't really worry much about Urquhart, who comes from a far corner of the state and wasn't expected to have much money for his campaign.

But a challenge to the veteran Hatch is a worry despite Urquhart's withdrawal, they said, because it could open the gates for some Wasatch-Front based millionaire Republican to take on the senator and that could be real trouble.

Hansen was naturally glad to see Urquhart out of the race. But Hansen, a long-time Utah and national GOP strategist, said last fall he wrote a campaign plan for Hatch's sixth election to the Senate in 2006 "and we haven't much changed that" after Urquhart got in the race officially July 21.

"We sped up a few things," Hansen said, such as fund-raising and seeking early endorsements from well-known Utahns and Republicans. GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. endorsed Hatch several weeks ago, as has fellow U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Hatch, who owns a condo and keeps his official residency in Salt Lake City, has a home outside of Washington, D.C., where he spends most of his time.

But the senator has been in Utah most weekends and nearly all of the August (congressional) recess, he said. "The senator has been all over the state since the first of the year, campaigning and meeting folks," Hansen said. "One thing a credible challenge does — and Rep. Urquhart's challenge was credible — is that it makes your candidate work harder, be a better candidate and a better public servant."

Urquhart, a private attorney, said, "For us time is money. And I was spending my time on my legislative duties and my (Senate) campaign. My family finances were suffering."

Urquhart said he will run for his Utah House seat again next year and that he hasn't ruled out seeking higher office in the future.

But he said if he knew now how his Senate race would unfold this summer, "I wouldn't have run. I knew it would be an uphill fight against his huge financial resources and his universal name identification. I have no idea if any other credible Republican candidate will run against him."