By Gary P Jackson
It looks like Virginians will have only two choices in the Republican primary. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Why? The simple answer is: They followed the rules.
Virginia election law requires candidates who want ballot access to obtain 10,000 signatures on a petition. They further require that among those signatures there be at least 400 signatures from each of the voting districts.
This is a pretty straightforward deal and candidates had no less than FIVE MONTHS to get it all done.
The state of Virginia and the Republican Party spent weeks reminding candidates this was a priority. Both also recommended candidates get at least 15,000 signatures, in case some of those signatures turned out to be invalid. Common sense dictates this as well.
As it turned out, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Jon Huntsman didn’t bother to submit petitions, simply because they didn’t have the organization to get enough signatures.
Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich submitted more than 10,000 signatures [barely] and after review, many of those signatures were invalidated. After the certification process was over, it was found
that both Perry and Gingrich failed to reach the number of valid signatures needed to qualify.
Rules are rules. This is no different than being found too light at the scales at a race [where there is a minimum weight requirement] there’s no margin of error. You either made the requirement, or you didn’t.
At the races we always made sure that we were a few pounds heavy, just in case. In gathering petitions, where a certain number is required, you always gather far more than you need. It’s always likely some will be rejected.
It’s being reported that a significant number of Perry’s petitions had no address or phone number, so it was impossible to verify them.
What I found interesting Friday night, when all of this was first reported was the reaction online from supporters of Perry and Gingrich.
The conspiracy theories came fast and furious on Conservative blogs like Hot Air with commenters blaming Mitt Romney, who turned in over 15,000 ballots and met the requirements.
Of course, the GOP Establishment™ was blamed, as this is obviously a conspiracy to help Romney. Never mind Newt is a bigger establishment guy than he is.
What I really found interesting is how the same folks that are known to lose their minds over ACORN and voter fraud, sounded just like the socialists who bitch about laws that govern elections. The same people who want Obama and everyone else thrown in jail for voter fraud, are suddenly angry because the law was enforced, and candidates who failed to meet the threshold were denied ballot access.
It’s amazing how people act when it’s their guy. As I like to point out, they act the same way when their guy’s actual record is pointed out as well.
Shame on these people.
And to clear this up for some, this is Virginia law, not Republican Party rules. Meaning the RNC can’t “waive” the rules, as some have suggested. The bottom line is these are long standing laws and are the same for every candidate. These laws favor no one, and apply to everyone equally.
Just like in racing, if you don’t qualify for the event, there is no one to blame, but yourself.
For their part, Rick Perry’s team quietly said they would appeal the ruling. Basically asking for a recount. That’s certainly his right under the law, and he’d be foolish not to.
Newt, on the other hand is crying like a baby. Obviously the rules shouldn’t apply to him at all:
Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.
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.
Newt, only a failed CANDIDATE would whine because they didn’t have the organization in place to get such a relatively small number of signatures in five freakin’ months!
Someone needs to remind Newt there’s no crying in politics!
Again, using racing as an example, when I go to an NHRA national event I “deserve” to see the top stars like John Force, Ashley Force-Hood, Larry Dixon, Melanie Troxel, and so on. Thing is, in their careers, every single racer, even the best of the best, has failed to qualify at an event.
You know what happens? On race day, the fans watch those who did qualify!
Newt continued to whine, and his campaign promises to mount “an aggressive write-in campaign.” Problem is, Virginia doesn’t allow write-in votes during the primary. Only the general election.
It’s seems Newt, the “Smartest Man in Every Room™” doesn’t even know the laws in his own state! Newt calls Virginia home.
Twitter was more fun on Friday night, and sanity reigned. Most agreed it all came down organization. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul had great organization, and got the job done. End of story.
One can see why candidates like Santorum and Bachmann don’t have organization. They have put everything into Iowa, because if they don’t win or finish second there, it’s likely over for them anyway. But it doesn’t bode well in the long run.
What’s more puzzling is Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry. Both have money, connections, and know how all of this works. Getting 15,000 solid signatures should have been a cakewalk.
Newt’s situation is understandable. His campaign has been a hot mess of disorganization since day one. It’s as undisciplined as his brain. All of this speaks more to his lack of solid managerial skills, than anything else. If the supposed front runner, in his home state no less, can’t organize well enough to get on the ballot, it says a whole lot about his ability to run the country.
Attaining ballot access is pretty easy. Governing the United States, not so much.
As Chris Smith @smitty_one_each pointed out to me Friday night, this is also a real test of campaign strength. Of voter desire. Voter intensity for a candidate.
The consensus of the night though, at least among the crowd I hang with on Twitter, was Governor Sarah Palin would have had no problems getting it done. Or should I say her volunteer army, Organize4Palin, would have no had no problem.
I figure she would have gotten thousands of signatures from each district, not hundreds.
Tony Lee tweeted this last night:
Although Governor Palin isn’t a candidate, had she been, her supporters would have organized the drive themselves. THAT speaks to voter intensity!
Speaking of which, there is an incredible thing going on in Iowa, with a group called Sarah Palin’s Iowa Earthquake. [named after Sarah’s statement that nothing short of a 10.5 magnitude earthquake would change her mind]
These folks have been working in Iowa to organize a write-in campaign for Sarah Palin. They have raised money and created very effective ads asking voters to write her name in. The ads are already running in major markets. A real life “Field of Dreams” scenario. I’ll have more on Monday.
The bottom line on the Virginia fiasco is this: There is no conspiracy theory here. No one is trying to force Mitt Romney or [God forbid] Ron Paul on the voters. The GOP Establishment™ is not in cahoots with Virginia law makers to make sure Romney wins. Again, if the Establishment™ wanted one of their own, Newt fits that bill better than Romney anyway.
Besides, this is the GOP we’re talking about. It isn’t exactly filled with brain surgeons or brilliant tacticians!
The Virginia law is long standing. And it’s not something so onerous that it makes it impossible for anyone but the most well funded candidates to participate. In 2008 there were six Republican candidates and six democrat candidates on the Virginia primary ballots. The law was changed in 2010, but if anything, it made ballot access easier, not harder.
What it boils down to is Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich simply don’t have the organization. They failed. For the other candidates with less money and name recognition, this is not as big of a deal. But for bucks up, and supposed front runners, this is a disaster, at least in Virginia.
In the grand scheme of things, Virginia shouldn’t make or break a candidate, delegate wise, but this was a real test for the top candidates, and two of them failed.
It’s one more sign that this 2012 nomination process is going to be painful to watch.