Cannon had collected 56 percent of the vote to Jacob's 44, with outstanding vote counts primarily in Salt Lake and Utah counties.
But by 11:05 p.m. Jacob had already seen enough. He called Cannon to concede.
After the call, Cannon triumphantly told a crowd of supporters gathered at Provo's Historic Court House: "This is my sixth time running for office and this is the first concession call I've ever received." Cannon was surprised by the margin of his lead. "I would have called it much closer than this," he said.
Polls by The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret Morning News also predicted a tighter race.
A despondent Jacob said he would now back his opponent: "The people have chose Chris Cannon. I will support him." Jacob blamed his defeat on President Bush's endorsement of Cannon, which was used in radio advertisements and recorded phone messages.
"It is hard enough to beat the incumbent. I had to beat the president, too," Jacob said. "It took the energy out of my campaign." But Cannon criticized Jacob for running a campaign with limited proposals.
"This guy just said, 'If you want change, vote for me.' I just don't think people accept that." Jacob had relentlessly attacked Cannon on his illegal-immigration position, making vague promises of tough reform virtually the only issue in his campaign. The race was watched nationwide as a so-called referendum on President Bush's immigration reform plan. But despite attack ads purchased by anti-illegal immigration groups, Cannon's experience and congressional seniority apparently carried the day.
Cannon teased the 150 supporters who gathered at Provo's Historic County Court House saying he would make an announcement on immigration, which he called the "I" word. As of press time, he made no such announcement.
Immigration reform became an emotional issue for many Utahns after thousands of Latinos demonstrated in Salt Lake City and nationwide earlier this spring against a U.S. House bill that would have made it a felony to enter the country illegally.
The bill died, the debate has not.