News this week that Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich may not be included in Virginia’s Mar. 6 primary has raised questions about their long-term viability in the Republican presidential nominating process and focused attention on barriers to candidates looking to appear on the ballot.
Both Gingrich and Perry failed to meet the 10,000 signature requirement for White House contenders to be listed on the Virginia primary ballot, while Mitt Romney and Ron Paul did pass that threshold. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman did not submit signatures by Thursday’s deadline.
Gingrich likened his stumble in the Old Dominion to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, an analogy that drew ridicule from conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer.
As the Associated Press notes, Virginia’s primary offers just 46 of 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. But Gingrich’s failure to collect sufficient valid signatures reinforces concerns about his on-the-ground organization in states across the nation, even as polls show him fading as the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses approach.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Gingrich leading Romney in Virginia, 30-25 percent. Virginia state law prohibits write-in candidates for primary elections, closing that avenue for Gingrich.
Meanwhile, Perry has vowed to fight his exclusion in federal court. “We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot,” Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement released Tuesday.
Some ballot access advocates see irony in Perry’s frustration with Virginia’s signature requirements. In a statement issued Monday, Jordon Greene, president of Free the Vote North Carolina, said that Perry’s failure to get on the ballot was “poetic justice since he’s one of only two governors to veto a ballot access reform bill in 60 years.”
According to Ballot Access News, in 2003 Gov. Perry vetoed a measure that would have done away with a requirement that petitioners read a 93-word statement to each voter they approach for a signature. The bill had passed unanimously in both houses of the Texas legislature before being rejected by Perry.