Gingrich also fails to qualify for Virginia ballot; Update: Gingrich promises write-in campaign; Update: Are write-ins for primaries illegal in VA?

posted at 9:15 am on December 24, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Hey, what’s the big deal?  It’s only, er, the state in which Gingrich currently lives:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 Republican primary, a development that complicates his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination.

“After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday on its Twitter website.

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.

Drink heavily the eggnog this evening and next, my friends.

Update: Commenter Cindy Munford asks, “Mr. Morrissey, why didn’t Rep. Bachmann, Sen. Santorum, and Gov. Huntsman even bother to submit petitions? It sure makes it seem like Virginia wasn’t a priority, why is that?”  Er … why are you asking my dad?  Oh — “Mr. Morrissey” is me? Well, OK.  Bachmann and Santorum don’t have the resources to put people on the ground in Virginia; they’re both sinking everything they have into Iowa.  I don’t think anyone expected them to qualify for the Virginia ballot.  Huntsman does have considerable resources, and he should have been able to compete in Virginia, so I’m not sure why he didn’t bother to try.

Dad says hello, by the way.

Update II: Team Gingrich lays this at the feet of Virginia, and promises “an aggressive write-in campaign”:

“Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot.  Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.  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.”

Well, the same “failed system” allowed six GOP and six Democratic campaigns to qualify for the ballot in 2008 — including, as Doug Mataconis reminds us, those establishment candidates Alan Keyes [see below, no] and Dennis Kucinich.  I’m pretty sure neither of those campaigns were drowning in cash this time four years ago, either. As for the potential success of a write-in campaign, it’s difficult to see how that will work when Gingrich’s team couldn’t even get enough people on the street to sign their own names to petitions, let alone write his name on a ballot.

Update III: Steve Eggleston offers a devastating comment to Team Gingrich’s attempt to accuse Virginia of blocking ballot access:

I’d like to know whether he considers Bachmann, Huntsman, or Santorum not a major candidate, or whether he realizes none of those three so much as submitted signatures.

Are they paying attention at all?

Update IV: Actually, Doug’s wrong [see next upate] — Keyes wasn’t on 2008 GOP primary ballot, but it did have six candidates: Paul, Romney, McCain, Fred Thompson, Huckabee, and Giuliani.  Democrats had six as well: Obama, Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Biden, and John Edwards.  And as I recall, the Fred Thompson campaign wasn’t exactly known for its energy and accomplishment.

Update V: I’m the one who got Doug’s tweet wrong, not Doug; he said Keyes got on the ballot in 2000, not 2008, which is true and goes directly to the same point.  But even worse, it appears that the pledge to run a write-in campaign in Virginia has one eeensy little obstacle …. it’s illegal:

At all elections except primary elections it shall be lawful for any voter to vote for any person other than the listed candidates for the office by writing or hand printing the person’s name on the official ballot…

Doug marvels at how a major campaign could get this so wrong:

That’s the first sentence of Virginia Code Section 24.2-644(C). Considering that Newt is a resident of the Commonwealth one would think his campaign would be aware of such things. Actually, one would think his campaign would have been on top of this thing months ago.

Well … yeah.

Update VI: Some are asking if the requirements for petition signatures changed between 2008 and 2010.  They did in 2010, but they appear to have gotten easier to collect, not more difficult.  Instead of requiring a Social Security number for each signature, the law was changed from shall to may, only for the last four digits of the SSN.

Update VII: So how long did Perry, Gingrich, and everyone else have to collect their signatures?  Steve Eggleston says more than five months:

In case you were in a cave this week, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann failed to turn in any signatures to get on Virginia’s March 6 Presidential primary ballot, while Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich had enough of their under-12,000 signatures (11,911 and 11,050 respectively) signatures invalidated by the Republican Party of Virginia that they too missed the 10,000 (with at least 400 from each of the 11 Congressional districts). …

For those of you wondering whether the 10,000 threshhold is so strenuous, nobody but the best-funded candidates can make the grade, do note tha the candidates could start collecting signatures back on July 1, and thus had over 5 1/2 months to get to 10,000. Further, there were 6 candidates on the 2008 Republican and 6 candidates on the 2008 Democrat Virginia primary ballots, including Dennis Kucinich on the Democrat side.

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