CHEYENNE - Cynthia Lummis said her comfortable margin of victory over Gary Trauner for Wyoming's U.S. House seat took her by surprise.
Polling in October had shown a neck-and-neck race.
"I felt throughout the race that it was extremely close and that it may even be a very late night," Lummis said Wednesday.
Lummis grabbed an early lead Tuesday and didn't let it go. The race was called in her favor around 10 p.m., three hours after polls closed.
Unofficial results show that Lummis, a former state treasurer and longtime legislator, beat Trauner, a businessman from Jackson Hole, 53 percent to 42 percent. Libertarian W. David Herbert got 5 percent.
Lummis said both external polling and her campaign's polling pointed to a close race - especially after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began spending $265,000 on advertising to help Trauner.
The Republicans' House committee countered by spending more than $350,000 on ads to help Lummis.
Meanwhile, Lummis began ignoring the polls, she said, and campaigned with Republican Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi. The race seemed to turn in her favor while the three were out together, she said.
"More Republicans or interested undecideds were coming to rallies around the state. There seemed to be more interest in having an experienced and united Wyoming ticket in Washington," Lummis said.
Lummis lost her home county, Laramie County, 51 percent to 46 percent. She also lost Albany and Teton counties - but handily won the other 20 counties in Wyoming.
Lummis said her campaign was focused on the counties that she ended up winning.
"I spent a great deal of my time - much more of my time - in Natrona County, Campbell County, Fremont County, Park County and the rural counties," she said. "And perhaps that contributed to the fact that I did well, in fact better, in some of those counties than I did in my home county."
Jim King, a University of Wyoming political science professor, said heavy negative advertising on both sides toward the end of the race apparently left some voters unable to tell much difference between Lummis and Trauner.
"Voters didn't make a sharp distinction between the two. They were hearing two things. They're not really certain which one to believe. They fall back on kind of traditional loyalties then," King said.
In Wyoming, party registration favors Republicans over Democrats by more than 2-to-1.
At the same time, King pointed out that Lummis didn't do nearly as well as Enzi or Barrasso. Both beat their Democratic challengers by a ratio of 3-to-1.
"It is a very significant step down to Lummis at what, 53 percent," King said. "So there were a lot of people that were supporting these other Republican candidates who did in fact support Trauner for the House."
Amy Larimer, executive director of the Wyoming Republican Party, said she was pleased her party easily won the three races.
"We proved yesterday that we are a very Republican state and that Wyoming believes in Republican ideals of lower taxes, less government, a stronger national defense," Larimer said.