Longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch will win the GOP primary in Utah, CNN projected Tuesday, though his bid for a seventh term in office has not gone without a fight.
Underdog Dan Liljenquist, 37, a former state senator, waged a spirited attempt to unseat the longtime senator, hoping to emulate the tea party-fueled ouster of incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010.
While Hatch, 78, has wide name recognition and decades of experience, his biggest advantage during the primary battle was his campaign war chest. The veteran senator pulled in more than $7 million since the beginning of 2011, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Liljenquist, who officially launched his campaign in January after a string of other high-profile Utah politicians decided against a Senate run, failed to come close the $1 million mark. He hit $778,362 in contributions as of June 6, with $400,000 coming from his own pocket.
As in other competitive Senate races this year, outside spending held an influential role in Utah, with nearly $1.8 million funneling into the contest in the last year and a half. A large chunk of the sum came from the handful of groups supporting Hatch, including the super PAC Freedom Path and the National Rifle Association.
Liljenquist saw his biggest boost from FreedomWorks for America, a super PAC that spent more than $600,000 on the candidate in the lead-up to the state's Republican convention in April when Liljenquist won enough delegates to force Hatch into the primary this summer.
While the former state senator attempted to frame the race as another 2010 tea party vs. establishment challenge, Team Hatch seemed to learn from Bennett's mistakes and began to push the senator's conservative credentials early and often.
Hatch's campaign pointed to his leadership in a Senate GOP push for a balanced budget amendment and his co-sponsorship of a Republican amendment to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.
And the day after longtime Sen. Richard Lugar was defeated in his Indiana primary battle, Hatch's campaign sent out a statement defending his own conservative credentials -- features Lugar was accused of lacking.
"From the first day of service in the United States Senate, Senator Orrin Hatch has been guided by the conservative principles that define Utah - limited government, lower taxes, less government spending, and personal responsibility," the statement said.