Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia's March 6 Republican primary, according to an announcement on a state Republican website early Saturday. The development adds to the challenges faced by the recent frontrunner in the GOP presidential race.
"After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary," the Republican Party of Virginia announced on its Twitter website.
Including Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), this is the second disqualification from the Va. ballot. Jon Huntsman Jr., Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), did not submit signatures in Virginia and therefore did not qualify, reports the New York Times.
This means that only Va. ballot choices left are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
State GOP spokesman Garren Shipley said volunteers spent Friday validating petitions that the four candidates submitted by the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline to the State Board of Elections. Shipley was not available early Saturday to discuss the announcement posted on the website.
Failing to get on the ballot would be a major setback for Gingrich, who has tried to use his recent upsurge in popularity to make up for a late organizing start.
Gingrich had to leave New Hampshire on Wednesday and race to Virginia, where he needs 10,000 valid voters' signatures by Thursday to secure a spot on the March 6 ballot.
He said Wednesday he had enough ballot signatures, but he wanted to come to Virginia to deliver them personally. Taking no chances, his volunteers asked everyone to sign petitions before entering Gingrich's rally Wednesday night in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington.
Gingrich's early-December rise in several polls gave him renewed hopes of carrying his campaign deep into the primary season. Failure to compete in Virginia, which is among the "Super Tuesday" primaries, would deal a huge blow to any contender who had not locked up the nomination by then.
The state Republican Party's Shipley said the party was validating petitions the candidates submitted by the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline to the state elections board. It began validating signatures Friday morning.
The 10,000 registered voters must also include 400 signatures from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
UPDATE: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich responded with authority to the news that his name would not appear on the Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot.
The Gingrich campaign says Virginia has a "failed system."
Campaign director Michael Krull issued a statement late Saturday saying people deserve to vote for any contender -- especially leading candidates.
The campaign says Gingrich will pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to appear on Virginia's ballot.
As Reuters points out, Virginia state law doesn't allow write-in candidates in primary elections.