Breaking: Federal judge rejects Perry's challenge to Virginia ballot law

Gingrich, Santorum, and Huntsman failed to qualify for the ballot too, you’ll recall, so Perry’s loss is also their loss. Which means, unless this gets turned around on appeal, the Virginia primary ballot will consist of Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and … that’s it. Huge news considering that, er, Romney and Paul will almost certainly be the only two candidates left in the race on March 6 anyway.

I said last month that I thought Perry had a real shot at success on the merits. The court actually agreed. There was just one problem:

In his opinion, Gibney says Perry, and the other candidates who joined the challenge, waited too long to bring the suit.

“They knew the rules in Virginia many months ago; the limitations on circulators affected them as soon as they began to circulate petitions,” he writes. “They plaintiffs could have challenged the Virginia law at that time. Instead, they waited until after the time to gather petitions had ended and they had lost the political battle to be on the ballot; then, on the eve of the printing of absentee ballots, they decided to challenge Virginia’s laws. In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair.”

More from the Examiner:

Gibney agreed that it was unfair to ask campaigns to only use in-state [petition] circulators but noted that none of the candidates made it an issue until after the state deadline to submit petitions. He added it was likely they would have won an injunction allowing their campaigns to use out-of-state petitioners if they hadn’t waited until after the deadline to sue…

Gibney was concerned that the elections process would be thrown into disarray if he allowed the candidates onto the ballot, and that it was “kind of intrusive into state affairs” to dictate proper thresholds for making the ballot.

Yay, states’ rights! I have to say, I’m amazed that a federal court would use laches to defeat a claim that affects a constitutional right and which the judge admits is meritorious given that the ruling will bar millions of citizens from voting for their preferred candidate in a presidential primary. (There’s no write-in option under Virginia law, remember.) Yeah, fine, Perry and the rest are disorganized morons who should have challenged the ballot law sooner. How does that justify stiffing the entire Republican electorate in Virginia by letting an unconstitutional ballot requirement stand?

Exit question: How will the vote split between Romney and Paul on March 6? Most people seem to think Mitt will crush him by 30 or 40 points but I’m highly skeptical of that. Once Romney becomes the de facto nominee, which could happen by the end of this month, GOP voters who dislike him will be looking to cast a protest vote and reporters bored with covering a race whose conclusion is foregone will start touting Paul just to make things interesting. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the margin is closer to 10-15 points than 30.

Update: A Twitter buddy adds a good point about my exit question. By the time March 6 rolls around and Romney’s nomination is a fait accompli, plenty of tepid Mitt supporters will feel safe in staying home. Paul’s supporters won’t. Another reason to think the race will be closer than you think.

Trending on HotAir Video