Talk about Christmas presents from the Republican Party! And it just keeps getting better and better.
Early this morning, the Virginia Republican Party announced that only two candidates had fulfilled the requirements to be on the primary ballot in Virginia. Those two candidates are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. That’s right, Newt Gingrich didn’t make it on the ballot, nor did Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, or Jon Huntsman.
The requirements to be on the ballot aren’t that stringent. All you have to do is collect 10,000 signatures (including 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts). If you are seriously running for president, that should be a cake-walk. That’s less than 1000 valid signatures in each congressional district from people who only have to like you enough to allow you on the ballot (they don’t have to actually, you know, vote for you). If you can’t do that, what hope do you have of winning the actual election?
But what was hilarious was the response from Gingrich, who immediately went on offense:
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.
First of all, the “failed system” he is attacking is his own party, since it was the Virginia GOP that counted his signatures and found they didn’t add up.
Second, just a few days ago, Gingrich declared confidently that he would be on the Virginia primary ballot, saying that he had enough signatures. Apparently, that was just a fantasy.
Third, Gingrich apparently doesn’t know the law in Virginia very well — write-in candidates are not allowed or counted in primary elections. As a law professor at the University of Richmond put it, Gingrich just “looks foolish and disorganized”. Not to mention too lazy to actually collect 10,000 signatures to be on the ballot.
Gingrich’s response has even more interesting implications. He uses vague phrases like “major candidates”, “top contender”, and “leading candidates”, which begs the question — who decides who qualifies as a major candidate worthy of being on the ballot? To me, Gingrich’s implied argument here is that the “leading candidates” are no longer decided by people (signing petitions), or even by the Republican party (a failed system), but by the media (and the debates, which are arranged by the media). And for the Republican Party, the “media” is mainly Fox News. Why don’t we just get rid of all this nonsense and let Rupert Murdock anoint the Republican candidate? That would save a lot of time and money.
I get the feeling that many of the candidates for the Republican primary are not actually all that serious about running for president. They (rightly) view the primary election as a fantastic opportunity to get attention, publicity, and even money. That would explain why they don’t bother much with little things like getting on the ballot. I mean, only two of them managed to get on the ballot of a major state (and for Gingrich, Virginia is his adopted home state!)
Finally, I have one last question about Gingrich’s response. He said that “four out of the six major candidates” were excluded. But I count five (Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, and Huntsman). Who was he excluding? In this one case it can’t be Ron Paul, since Paul got on the ballot. Maybe it was a Freudian slip, and Gingrich knows he doesn’t actually deserve to be on the ballot.