Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's campaign attacked Virginia's GOP primary election system on Saturday for keeping him off the state's March 6 Super Tuesday ballot. It was a significant setback for a candidate who has surged in popularity but struggled to organize his campaign.
The state party said that Gingrich, who lives in Virginia, had failed to submit the required 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also failed to qualify, the state GOP said.
The Gingrich campaign responded that "only a failed system" would disqualify Gingrich and other candidates. It said Gingrich would pursue an aggressive write-in campaign, although state law prohibits write-ins on primary ballots.
"Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Gingrich campaign director Michael Krull said in a statement. "We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice."
Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air breaks down this shocking revelation:
This follows the failure of Rick Perry to make the primary ballot, announced earlier last night. Which is more egregious? Perry had a lot more money and resources on which to call to get his ducks in a row than Gingrich, but this is Gingrich’s home state now, and has been for the last 12 years. A basic test in the primaries is whether a candidate can win his home state, so the failure to even qualify for the ballot is an even worse failure.
The news couldn’t come at a worse time, either. Gingrich’s numbers had already been falling in Iowa, but there had been a sense that the slide had been arrested, if not started to reverse itself a little. This failure calls into question Gingrich’s managerial competence all over again, which has taken a beating throughout this campaign — first when his staff walked out on him, and later when former House colleagues began to recall the circumstances of the rebellion that took place just a couple of years into his speakership.
The Virginia GOP can’t be enjoying this, either. Right now it looks like their early-ish March 6th primary will be an embarrassing flop, offering commonwealth Republicans a choice only between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. One has to wonder whether the state party will be spending their Christmas holiday looking for loopholes to add the rest of the field to the ballot — and if they do, how they plan to defend themselves against likely court challenges from Romney, Paul, or their supporters. Right now, the suddenly impermeable ballot of Virginia is making the case for Romney on competence alone.
As Ed suggested in the aforementioned excerpt, since Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry won’t appear on the ballot, Team Romney must be celebrating Christmas a bit early this year. Virginia, after all, has historically been an important swing state during Republican presidential primaries. What’s more, if there isn’t a clear frontrunner by say, Nevada, the Old Dominion will unquestionably play a decisive role in determining the Republican nominee. And all polling numbers suggest, at least for now, that if Gingrich can’t get his name on the ballot before March 6 – Romney will most likely be the winner.
More importantly, if the former House Speaker cannot get his own name on the ballot in Virginia – a crucially important swing state – does he have the wherewithal to defeat Barack Obama? I’m not sure he does. How was this even possible? Perhaps, as Gingrich argues, the Virginia laws are indeed too rigid and complicated, and it was exceedingly difficult for him to get on the ballot. Still, whatever the case, this potentially calamitous blunder may have far reaching implications. And if nothing else – I think – it certainly casts doubt on Gingrich’s ability to run an effective campaign.
Parting thought: Will Gingrich’s gaffe hurt his candidacy in the early primary states? Or will the backlash from this unfortunate situation be negligible?