Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have failed to qualify for Virginia's March 6 Republican primary, a setback in their bids for the Republican presidential nomination.
The Republican Party of Virginia announced the developments Friday and early Saturday, saying that the two have failed to submit the required 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot.
The Gingrich campaign responded that "only a failed system" would disqualify Gingrich and other candidates. It said Gingrich would pursue an aggressive write-in campaign in Virginia.
"Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Gingrich campaign director Michael Krull said in a statement.
"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," Krull said.
But a University of Virginia law professor, Carl Tobias, says that it wouldn't be allowed. When it comes to primary elections, state law says: "No write-in shall be permitted on ballots."
As for Gingrich's failure to qualify, Tobias says the former House speaker may have had trouble meeting a requirement that he must submit 400 signatures from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts.
That Gingrich and Perry failed to get on the ballot in this state that votes on Super Tuesday underscored the difficulty that first-time national candidates - many with smaller campaign operations and less money - have in preparing for the long haul of the campaign.
It also illustrates the advantage held by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. He's essentially been running for president for five years, and his team, smaller than in 2008 but larger than most of his 2012 opponents, has paid close attention to filing requirements in each state. He will appear on the Virginia ballot, along with Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who also has run a national campaign before.
Failing to get on the ballot will be a major setback for Gingrich, who has tried to use his recent upsurge in popularity to make up for a late organizing start. Ironically, Gingrich had a slight lead over Romney, with others farther back, in a Quinnipiac poll of Virginia Republicans released earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, Virginia's Democrats said President Barack Obama's re-election campaign gathered enough signatures to get him on the state's primary ballot though he was the only candidate who qualified.