In the end, Sen. John McCain's prediction earlier this week that former Congressman J.D. Hayworth's campaign was "deader than Elvis," wasn't entirely an overstatement.
The state's highest-profile incumbent handily beat back his two GOP challengers who tried to derail his fifth term, closing in on nearly 58 percent of the vote, to Hayworth's 31 percent and tea-party activist Jim Deakin's 11 percent.
The former presidential contender will face former Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman, whose decisive showing in Pima County was helping him come out on top in a four-way Democratic primary race.
At midnight, with more than 80 percent of the vote counted, Glassman drew 34 percent of the vote, compared with former state lawmaker Cathy Eden's second-place showing of 27 percent. Former investigative journalist John Dougherty pulled 23 percent, while labor organizer Randy Parraz had 13 percent.
Glassman's supporters were whooping it up at The Maverick, a staple in Tucson's country music scene.
Glassman's spokesman, Blake Morlock, said the site was selected because of its place in Southern Arizona folklore - not necessarily a chance to needle McCain, who at various points has embraced and rejected the moniker.
"You'll have to ask McCain if he's a maverick," Morlock said. "We can't keep track."
Glassman said his stint on the City Council taught him the value of constituent services and consensus building - strengths that will help him in his focus on jobs and education.
He said McCain, despite his strong showing, is vulnerable. "For 28 years John McCain has built a political career off of what he doesn't do for Arizona," he said, alluding to McCain's refusal to work for earmarks for public works projects.
For his part, McCain, clearly sensing an anti-incumbent sentiment at play, worked at a frenetic pace to shore up support with voters who felt he'd abandoned the state during his presidential run, or that he had forsaken conservative principles along the way.
McCain held a whopping 37 town halls this year, and drummed up social media circles. But what voters probably most noted was the $21 million he poured into the race. Ultimately, Hayworth was buried under a deluge of ads that attacked him on everything from gaffes on the campaign trail, to his short stint as a lobbyist to his role as a "huckster" in an infomercial offering "free" government money.
Still, as hard-hitting as the primary was, McCain struck a conciliatory tone in his victory speech, saying both of his opponents deserved credit for having the courage to enter the political arena. Then he refocused on challenging the course of the Obama administration.
"This will be a consequential election," he said at his Phoenix election night rally, well before the 10 p.m. news cycle. Saying the country is groaning under high unemployment and red ink, he said, "No one is satisfied with the current condition of our country."
He predicted the GOP will take both the Senate and House in November - and will ratchet back spending, secure the borders and "repeal and replace Obamacare."
Hayworth, for his part, continued to draw exuberant crowds until the end. On Friday night, he made a last-minute pitch to about 300 supporters on Tucson's east side, who snacked on sandwiches and fruit as Hayworth said McCain was trying to buy the race. He charged that while McCain went to Washington to change it, it ended up changing him. Still, Hayworth called on his supporters to "move forward" for the general election.
It was the money and the message that made a difference in McCain's win, pollster Bruce Merrill said. "McCain had some hard-hitting ads, calling Hayworth a con man and a lobbyist. People do that kind of advertising because it does work. People remember negative things."
Republican pollster Margaret Kenski said she wasn't convinced it was necessary for McCain to spend that much. "People know John McCain. He's won handily before, and meanwhile, voters remember the ads calling J.D. a lobbyist - and that runs counter to what he claimed to stand for."
On the Democratic side, Glassman was helped by having more money than all of his challengers combined, and was in the race the longest.
Kenski said McCain should make short work of Glassman. "He's young, he's dynamic, but even with this anti-incumbent mood out there, voters are going to think it's too much, too fast."
But pollster Merrill said it would be premature to dismiss the chances of the Democratic candidate.
Merrill draws a parallel to 1976, which featured a bruising primary between Republican Congressmen Sam Steiger and John Conlan for the Senate seat. Steiger won but was left so wounded that the rift helped propel Dennis DeConcini to the Senate.
"Could that happen again?" Merrill queried. "I think that's an interesting situation."
The victors will face Libertarian David Nolan and Green Party candidate Jerry Joslyn.
Reporter Carmen Duarte contributed to this report. Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at 573-4243 or email@example.com