The Grinch that Stole Virginia from Gingrich

Bookmark and Share    Before Christmas day, the electoral Grinch stole Virginia from Gingrich and Perry as the Virginia State Board of Elections ruled that both candidates failed to qualify for a place on their Republican presidential primary ballot.

The fact that the two candidates won’t even be able to compete for the state’s 49 delegates is not good news but unless this becomes one of the closest nomination contests in recent history, something which is quite possible, it should not determine winning or losing the nomination for anyone.  But there is a bigger picture that the failure to qualify for the ballot in Virginia casts a shadow upon for Perry and Gingrich.  It is a glaring sign of what in the end will probably prevent both men from winning the nomination.  It is a sign of a total lack of longterm planning, organization, and coordination.

Deficiencies in such necessary strategic areas, will make it impossible for either to win any of the crucial early state nomination contests that help establish each candidate’s momentum, or lack thereof, in the primaries and caucuses that come later.

This particularly applies to Iowa where out of 3 million residents, less than 120,000 are expected to participate in the actual Caucus on January 3rd.  That means that regardless of how many ads a candidate ran, mailings they have sent, phone calls they made, or hands they shook, come the day of the Caucus, each candidate must somehow find the percentage of voters who are supporting them and make sure that they get to their designated caucus locations, of which there are more than 1,700.

Just like finding a needle in a haystack, doing this  involves time, attention, staff, money, and coordination, all of which Gingrich and Perry are either without or quickly running out of.

The process involves identifying committed supporters, likely supporters, and persuadable voters.  Doing this requires each campaign to devote much time and energy to building a team of dedicated county chairs and precinct captains who help keep track of these people, target them with specific messages and make sure they vote in the caucus.  One good way to help that process of building an organization capable of doing that is by each candidate going out of their way to get the backing of federal, state and local officials, who have influence among their local constituents and already have a political organization of their own that they can lend to the candidate whom they do endorse.  Unfortunately for Gingrich and Perry, it is now too late for that part of the process.  Not having done enough of that prior to this point, leaves both men a ta great disadvantage, especially when compared to Mitt Romney who has had an organization in place in Iowa since before 2008, and Ron Paul who also has an organization in place since 2008 and whose supporters are diehards that work on behalf of their man relentlessly.

This lack of organization and planning is exactly why Gingrich and Perry failed to get on the ballot in Virginia and to be quite honest, it is an amateur mistake that is embarrassing setback for both of these experienced political hands.

The petition process that Gingrich and Perry failed at is an entrance level class of politics 101 and to be incapable of fulfilling that most basic aspect of the political process raises significant questions of competency.

The petition is not always easy but anyone who knows anything about the process understands that it is critically important to the viability of a candidacy.

Each state has different requirements for ballot access.  Some state’s require a fee, others requires a simple signature, and many require a certain amount of signatures.  In the case of Virginia, to get on the Republican presidential primary ballot, a candidate needs to secure the signatures of 10,000 registered Republican Virginia voters and they must also acquire a certain percentage of those signatures from each of the state’s congressional districts.

But it is not as simple as that.

In addition to the signature of those voters, it is required that their addresses are also filled out.  Additionally, may states also require that the individuals who collect those signatures, be state residents who are registered Republicans and properly fill out the bottom of the petition which usually confirms that they witnessed the signing of the petition by each person named on it.

These requirements often allow for many signatures to be disqualified because of technicalities.  That is also why well organized campaigns usually submit twice as many signatures than required and carefully double check their own petitions before filing them and closely scrutinize the petitions of their opponents after they have filed them.

The scrutiny of petitions is what gave birth to the presidency of Barack Obama.

As we all know, Barack Obama was only in the senate for less than two years before he became President and we also know that he won election to to the U.S. Senate after a series of scandals left Obama without a viable Republican in the general election.  But what few people realize is that Obama first won elected office by using Chicago political tactics and knocking his Democrat opponents for the state senate, including incumbent Alice Palmer, off the ballot because of a technicality on their nominating petitions.  With no Democrat primary opponent to run against in a state senate district where the Democratic nomination is tantamount to winning the general election, this meant that Barack Obama came to power by default.

But the story is an example of just how important the petition is and why it is crucial for a candidate to pay attention to their petition process.

Unfortunately, Perry and Gingrich did not do this.

Others like Bachmann, Santorum, John Huntsman, and Gary Johnson did not even have the resources to try to get on Virginia’s ballot. But that was not Gingrich and Perry’s problem.  Their problem was that their campaign’s lack the discipline to pay attention to the details that matter and this lack of attention to detail will cost both Gingrich and Perry and Iowa.

On the flip-side, as I have said many times over the past year, Mitt Romney’s has the most effective, professional, and smooth running  organization of all the candidates in the race.  That edge is invaluable and while it may not be enough to get him a first place finish in Iowa, it will be enough to allow him to finish strong, stay in the game, and continue to strengthen his organization in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.

While this recent turn of events in Virginia is disappointing for both Perry Gingrich, it is more of a blow to Newt than Perry.

Perry’s campaign fell apart two months ago after his initial horrendous debate performances.  But at the same time Perry fell apart, Newt began to surge.  However;  many people know that Gingrich’s lack of discipline is one of his biggest problems and it plays a big role in the negative impression that Newt has when it comes to electability.  That negative impression was simply reinforced by the shoddiness of his campaign that prevented Newt from getting on the Virginia primary ballot.

Ironically, Newt Gingrich knows that organization is his weakness.  That is one reason why, two months ago, he decided to try to create a real organization in South Carolina, where he intends to build a firewall and take the lead in the nomination contest.  It is in  South Carolina where Gingrich has hired regional and statewide staffers and opened multiple campaign headquarters.  And currently, Newt is still leading in South Carolina.  But that may soon change.

South Carolina’s popular governor, Nikki Haley endorsed Mitt Romney and as a result, Romney will have easy access to the state Party apparatus.  Coupled with the organization Mitt already has in place, he will still probably wind up with an organizational advantage over Newt.  Especially when it comes to the Get Out the Vote operation.

So in the end, this Christmas season has provided us with new seasonal story….the one about the organizational Grinch that stole the election away from Newt Gingrich.  And even though we have not yet heard the end of the story, it is pretty clear that short of a Christmas miracle, Newt is not likely to hammer together the type of strong organization that is required to rewrite what is becoming an obvious conclusion.

Of course their are other opinions such as those of White House 2012 writer IkeFriday, who in his own post about the Virginia ballot episode, notes that candidates may have simply been caught off guard after Virginia suddenly changed the rules regarding their ballot earlier this month.

Friday’s point is an extremely valid one and one that I believe would in fact provide the type of evidence that could win a court ruling in Newt’s favor and get him on the ballot.  However; as someone who has had to deal with New York election laws, the most arcane ones in the nation, as frustrating as the process may be, I find there to be no excuse for a top tier presidential candidate’s campaign organization to be incapable of staying on top of things and mastering the most basic and necessary aspect of the election process, getting your name on the ballot so the people can vote for you.  This is not enough to cause me to stop supporting Gingrich’s candidacy, but as a supporter of Newt and his presidential candidacy, it is my hope that this incident is enough to knock some sense in to the managerial aspect of his campaign.

Hopefully, Newt will not get caught off guard like this again, and in case his campaign is finally beginning to look ahead, I am hereby volunteering my services to manage Newt’s effort to get his name on the ballot in New Jersey.

With Governor Christie backing Mitt Romney, it may not be rich territory for Newt, but if this nomination contest does turn out to be close, my state’s pitifully late June 5th presidential primary and its 50 delegates could prove to be much more important than they are now.  And at the very least, Newt might just want to force Mitt to spend money in New Jersey, where to reach all the voters, you must spend big bucks in the two media markets that it takes to get through to Jersey voters……..the New York media market which is the most expensive in the nation, and the Philadelphia market, the third most expensive in the nation.


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