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GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich has failed to gather enough petition signatures to win a spot on Virginia's Republican primary ballot, a potentially devastating blow to his campaign. Virginia holds 10 percent of the GOP convention delegates up for grabs in the March 6 Super Tuesday primaries. The Gingrich campaign called the exclusion an "unexpected setback" — likening it to Japan's 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — but said the former House speaker would bounce back and win the nomination. Can he really rebound?
This will be a deal-breaker for some Republicans: It's hard to see how Gingrich recovers from this, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Virginia is his adopted home state and, if losing the primary in your home state is a disaster, "the failure to even qualify for the ballot is an even worse failure." Gingrich's inability to complete this basic task will only fuel doubts about his managerial abilities, and strengthen the case for backing Mitt Romney "on competence alone."
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Actually, this may hurt Virginia, and even Romney, worse: Gingrich isn't the only candidate who won't be on Virginia's ballot, says Moe Lane at Redstate. In fact, the only ones who did qualify were Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. This "meltdown" is turning the Virginia GOP into a laughingstock — particularly given its rule that candidates who bring in 15,000 signatures (the minimum is 10,000) don't need to get those signatures verified. That's a godsend for conspiracy theorists who think insiders are pulling strings for Romney. If I were advising the Romney campaign, I'd urge it to get those 15,000 signatures "certified anyway."
Virginia's "debacle" is a disaster for the entire GOP: Gingrich really blew it, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. And he compounded the damage from the "debacle" by insisting he would mount an "aggressive write-in campaign" — even though the state doesn't allow write-ins. But "the larger point is that Virginia has ridiculous ballot-access laws." If all seven candidates had made the ballot, "Virginia would have been home to a spirited contest" — now a potentially crucial state has "made itself irrelevant."
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