Gingrich fails to make Virginia ballot


US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich will not be on the Republican Party's March 6th primary ballot because he could not get enough signatures.

 The Republican Party of Virginia said yesterday that neither Mr 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 US 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." Mr 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, does not allow for write-ins in primary elections. "Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Mr Krull said.

Mr Gingrich, who has risen in national surveys to become a frontrunner for the Republican nomination, launched a last- minute effort last week to get on the primary ballot in a state he led in a recent opinion poll.

A recent survey of registered Republican voters put Mr Gingrich in the lead in Virginia, with 30 per cent, followed by Mr Romney with 25 per cent and Mr Paul at 9 per cent. Mr Perry had 6 per cent.

The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The exclusion of Mr Gingrich from the Virginia ballot highlights the difference between his and Mr 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. Such organisational advantage may also help Mr 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 awarding them proportionally.

Mr Romney has raised $32.6 million through September 30th, more than any of his rivals.  "We now have adapted the Democratic Party's approach for allocating the early delegates on a proportional basis," Mr Romney said recently.

"So, we are prepared. If we go on for months and months, we will have the resources to carry a campaign to each of the states."

Mr Gingrich held a rally in Arlington, Virginia, earlier this week, where he said he had obtained enough signatures to get on the ballot. "We're going to disappoint the Republican establishment, because tomorrow in Virginia we're going to turn in vastly more signatures than we need," he said at the time.

Even as volunteers were collecting signatures of eligible voters to make sure Mr Gingrich could appear on the ballot, the former House speaker said he wasn't prepared for the surge that made him a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

"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," Mr Gingrich said