Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich is scrambling to collect enough signatures to get on the Virginia ballot by the deadline on Thursday. Reuters

While his opponents are blanketing Iowa and New Hampshire with last-minute appeals for support, Newt Gingrich is stuck in Virginia, trying to get enough signatures to get his name on the ballot for a primary that doesn't take place until March 6.

It is a dangerous situation for a candidate who is struggling to maintain his front-runner status as poll after poll shows his double-digit leads fading.

Gingrich knows that his path to the nomination will become exponentially harder if he wins neither Iowa nor New Hampshire, and he also knows that voters in both of those states reward candidates for grassroots outreach.

But disorganization within his campaign has forced him to choose between two potentially catastrophic outcomes: losing Iowa and New Hampshire because he didn't spend enough time there, or focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire but missing the ballot in a state that will send 46 delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Virginia Primary Registration: High Bar

Virginia sets one of the highest bars in the country for candidates hoping to qualify for its primary ballot: 10,000 valid voters' signatures by Thursday, Dec. 22, including at least 400 from each of the state's 11 counties. When Gingrich was polling in the single digits, as he was until last month, he wasn't thinking about Virginia -- and once he became a front-runner, he had little time left to organize a 10,000-signature petition drive.

Gingrich's campaign announced Thursday afternoon that it had reached the 10,000 mark. However, the Virginia Board of Elections recommends that candidates collect 15,000 signatures, because some will likely be invalidated when the petitions are examined.

This is not the first time Gingrich has had to scramble to get his name on a ballot. The same thing happened in Ohio, where he made the ballot in the nick of time, and he missed the ballot in Missouri.

He has held on to a slim lead in national polls, averaging 27.6 percent to Mitt Romney's 24.6 percent, but he has fallen from first to third place in Iowa and is perilously close to dropping from second to third place in New Hampshire.

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