The Republican Party of Virginia announced yesterday that GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Ricky Perry will not be on the ballot for the state's March 6 primary, as neither was able to produce the signatures necessary to earn recognition of their candidacies.
Primary candidates are required to present voter's petitions with 10,000 signatures in order to have their candidacies recognized and to have their names entered into the primary.
Republican officials say, however, that both Perry and Gingrich failed to produce enough valid voter's signatures to qualify.
The loss of Virginia, a crucial state in both the Republican primaries and the 2012 presidential election, is simply the killing blow for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's long-limping campaign.
For Next Gingrich, however, the setback is far more dramatic. The Former House Speaker, in 24 hours, has gone from a frontrunner in the GOP race to a man who many assert lacks the national awareness and campaign organization to win the race against President Obama.
Not Enough Signatures
To qualify for the primary election ballot, candidates must present the 10,000 signatures, and must also have a total that includes at least 400 voters from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts.
According to Voice of America, both the Gingrich and Perry campaigns claimed they collected well over 11,000 signatures in the days leading up to the deadline.
But officials at the Republican Party of Virginia say that when it came time to tally the signatures, both men had less than required.
'A Failed System'
Despite aggressive efforts collecting thousands of Virginia signatures after Governor Perry's mid-August entry into the race, we were notified this evening of apparently falling short of the 10,000 voter signatures needed to qualify, Perry's campaign said in a statement.
At the same time, Perry's legal advisers are reportedly reviewing the Virginia ruling, considering whether or not to challenge the GOP decision.
Gingrich's campaign, meanwhile, slammed the Virginia primary setup in general, saying the process needed to qualify to run on the ballot was deeply flawed.
Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates, Gingrich's campaign director Michael Krull said in a statement.
Krull claimed that only a failed system would eliminate a frontrunner and a longtime candidate from the race based on state signatures. He also said the campaign would attempt a write-in strategy if the decision wasn't altered.
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.
State law, however, prohibits write-in candidates in primaries.
No write-in shall be permitted on ballots in primary elections, Virginia code reads, and Carl Tobias, a law professor at University of Richmond, agrees.
Virginia code prohibits write-ins, Tobias told Fox News. He can't do it.
The Importance of Virginia
News of the primary loss comes as a serious blow to both men, but especially to Newt Gingrich, who lives in a Virginia suburb.
Virginia is seen as an important swing state, one whether neither the party dominates. Past presidential elections have seen the race suddenly shift based on whether the state goes blue or red. Virginia is also the twelfth-most populated state in the U.S., bringing with it significant electoral college numbers.
Even worse, it's one of the 12 swing states where President Obama leads in head-to-head match-ups. In a recent Public Policy Poll, Obama led top GOP candidate Romney by 48 to 42 percent, and beat Gingrich at 50 to 42 percent.
Obama will need to get about half the 151 electoral votes provided by the twelve swing states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia) if he wants to win the 2012 presidential election.
And if he has enough support to get Virginia, it's likely Barack Obama will be president again in 2012.
If he wins Virginia, he's probably going to win the Electoral College, PPP said.
Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have qualified to run in the Virginia primary, and are already plotting out their state-focused campaign strategies.
The End of Rick Perry
For Rick Perry, Iowa's expected defeat and the loss of Virginia as a primary ground will be the end of his fitful presidential campaign.
A frontrunner in the Republican race, Perry's disastrous debate performances and PR goofs, including the infamous Texas ranch episode, have caused him to plummet to fourth place, getting in at around 6 percent of the GOP vote in recent polls and placing him behind Romney, Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul.
After Perry's oops moment, one of the most excruciating moments of the Republican primary, he tried to restart his campaign with a Christmas ad spot, but only ended up amusing or infuriating more viewers.
Something is wrong with our country when gays can serve openly in the military but our children can't openly celebrate Christmas, Perry said in the infamous ad.
The TV spot launched numerous viral parodies even as commentators made it the most disliked video on YouTube (over 700,000 users have given the video a thumbs-down).
And despite Perry's fundraising (he'd netted $17 million by October, second only to Romney), many of those funds come from corporations, not donors like those who helped propel Ron Paul's campaign in Iowa.
Perry's fundraising, meanwhile, has been on a steady decline ever since the candidates truly took the national stage.
His positions are less well known than his gaffes, and his Texas swagger doesn't do much in a health care debate. Most of his appearances have only solidified the general impression that, as New York Magazine put it last month, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.
Rick Perry has been losing the Republican primary race for months. But this blow in Virginia, even if it ends up being overturned, is just one more campaign gaffe. His presidential campaign is over less than six months after it truly began.
The End of Newt Gingrich?
Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, is used to bouncing back from losses, not plummeting from fast and easy gains.
Unlike Perry, his campaign was declared dead-on-arrival before being re-invigorated this fall, and Gingrich's political career, including when he was Speaker of the House, has often been as much about recovery and spin as it has been about riding the wave of success.
Gingrich, however, also had far more to lose: unlike Rick Perry, he was preparing for a Virginia primary as one of the top candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. That lead was based in part of his assured grasp of political nuances in the recent debates and the impression that his campaign was becoming a well-oiled machine.
Gingrich had planned for weeks to use Virginia as a way to continue wooing reluctant Romney supporters over to his side, building on his fought-for advantage. Despite leading in Iowa, he needed more than one state to secure his position as nominee apparent, and the Southern swing state looked to be it.
It's a demonstration that Gingrich is outrunning Romney in states beyond Iowa, press secretary told WLWT on Wednesday.
Now, however, reports indicate that Gingrich's loss was due to a combination of invalid signatures and poor campaign organization.
With both hints of something murky in the phrase invalid signatures and the impression that Gingrich's campaign staff didn't even know their own numbers, his political rivals smelled blood in the water.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, told The New York Times that the mistake was cringe-worthy.
It's a gut-check moment for Republicans, Mr. Fehrnstrom said. Winning campaigns have to be able to execute on the fundamentals. This is like watching a hitter in the World Series failing to lay down a bunt.
Gingrich's failure to realize or admit that he lacked enough signatures, meanwhile, has everyone from political analysts to potential voters on Twitter scratching their heads as to how a man who had been leading in Virginia managed to let the all-important state slip through his fingers.
It's a disaster for him, said Larry J. Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. [The lack of organization] suggests you're not a serious candidate.
The Question of Super Tuesday
Gingrich's failure to get on the Virginia primary ballot could also spell trouble for his chances on Super Tuesday, where ten states will join Virginia on March 6 and eleven, including swing states like Colorado, Florida and Michigan, will have cast primary votes.
Newt Gingrich supporters, news sources speculate, might see a vote for Gingrich as a waste if they don't feel he can win without Virginia. Why vote for a Super Tuesday candidate who you already know has been ousted from one of the states in play?
Yet Super Tuesday, following the Virginia primary ballot debacle, could also end up being Gingrich's electoral salvation.
Newt Gingrich is ahead in Iowa, but he remains behind in the polls in New Hampshire, a crucial state. If he can manage to rise in the New Hampshire polls, a comeback which perhaps only a political chameleon like Gingrich can pull off, than other wins on Super Tuesday could still make him the anti-Romney for which the GOP seems desperately to be searching.
The 2012 GOP primary race is not a winner-take-all, but a day-by-day scramble for castoff votes as candidates (reliably neutral Romney aside) continue to rise and fall in the political battle.
Newt Gingrich has an almost guaranteed win in Georgia, which he represented in Congress, and despite the painful loss of Virginia could still net Tennessee or Oklahoma, as well as garnering votes in pre-Super Tuesday states like Florida (where he's at the top) and South Carolina.
If the Republican presidential primaries have taught American viewers (and voters) anything, it's that candidates are never safe at the top. But if Newt Gingrich's political history has taught us anything, it's that the former Speaker is often most dangerous when he's down.