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(Updates with Huckabee comments starting in 10th paragraph. For more campaign news, go to ELECT.)
Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, atop a recent opinion poll among Virginia Republicans, won’t be on the party’s March 6 primary ballot because he couldn’t get enough signatures.
The Republican Party of Virginia said yesterday that neither Gingrich nor Texas Governor Rick Perry obtained signatures from 10,000 registered voters, including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Two other Republicans, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, qualified for the primary scheduled for so-called Super Tuesday.
“It speaks volumes to me about the particular organizational skills of the candidates,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “It’s hard for me to understand how they could miss this opportunity.”
Gingrich’s campaign director, Michael Krull, issued a statement calling Virginia’s ballot requirement “a failed system” and said the former House speaker would launch a write- in campaign. Virginia law, however, doesn’t allow for write-ins in primary elections.
“Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates,” Krull said.
Krull said last night on Gingrich’s Facebook page that the campaign was “exploring alternative methods to compete” in the primary, and likened the failure to make the ballot to December 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
“We have experienced an unexpected setback, but we will regroup and refocus with interested determination, commitment and positive action,” Krull wrote. “In the end, we will stand victorious.”
Krull said the campaign will make other deadlines for getting on the ballot in state primaries.
Gingrich now is turning his attention to Iowa, where the first test of the 2012 presidential race is scheduled for Jan. 3. Gingrich had led in state polls in recent weeks, though fell behind Paul and Romney in the wake of attack ads, most of them by a political action committee funded by Romney supporters. Gingrich has called the ads “dishonest” and challenged Romney to defend them in a debate.
Effects of Ads
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses four years ago, said the ads are hurting Gingrich.
“If you are soft on a candidate, and every day you get pounded with about 20 messages telling you that the guy you think you might want to vote for has a lot of problems, it’s easier to switch horses at that point,” Huckabee said today on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Newt is a good candidate,” Huckabee said. “He’s had a great message. But he has been pounded by Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and pretty much anybody who has 15 cents to buy part of an ad.”
In Virginia, Gingrich launched a last-minute effort last week to get on the primary ballot in a state he led in a recent opinion poll.
A Quinnipiac University survey of 489 registered Republican voters taken Dec. 13-19 put Gingrich in the lead in Virginia, with 30 percent, followed by Romney with 25 percent and Paul at 9 percent. Perry had 6 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
At a Dec. 21 rally in Arlington, Virginia, Gingrich said he wasn’t prepared for the surge that made him a frontrunner.
“We weren’t ready for it yet because we don’t have the structure and we don’t have the money to compete at that level, so we had to scramble a little bit,” Gingrich said.
His exclusion from the Virginia ballot highlights the difference between his and Romney’s campaign apparatus.
“A real presidential campaign is more than just appearing at a bunch of debates,” Republican consultant John Feehery, who is not supporting any of the candidates, said yesterday in an e- mail.
Such organizational advantage may also help Romney if the Republican nomination contest lasts longer than in previous years. This time, states voting in March will no longer award all of their delegates to the winner of their primaries. Instead, they will be awarded proportionally. Romney had raised $32.6 million through Sept. 30, more than any of his rivals.
That financial advantage is going to help Romney, especially if his rivals don’t do well in the early states, Huckabee said on Fox.
“Unless they have a bunch of millions banked away, they’re not going to raise anymore,” Huckabee said. “So, that’s where Mitt Romney does have the advantage.”
--Editors: Daniel Enoch, Christian Thompson.
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