WASHINGTON - The Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday that GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich failed to amass the 10,000 signatures needed in order to secure a place on the ballot in the party's March 6th primary election. Gingrich isn't the first Republican presidential candidate who failed to qualify for the "Super Tuesday" primary contest - on Friday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry also failed to make the cut for the same reason. Rival candidates Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) qualified for the primary. On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama qualified earlier this year.
The failure is a particularly tough blow to Gingrich, who is a Virginia resident, having lived in the Washington suburb of McLean, Va. for more than a decade. Gingrich said earlier this week that he had reached the 10,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot, but after a review of his 11,050 signatures, the Republican Party of Virginia announced in a tweet early Saturday that Gingrich "did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary."
A spokesman for Gingrich had yet to respond to an email early Saturday morning from The Huffington Post, but a Perry spokesman told NBC that their campaign would "closely review the facts and law to determine whether an appeal or challenge is warranted."
UPDATE [10:01 a.m. ET] - Early Saturday, Gingrich's campaign released the following statement from Campaign Director Michael Krull:
"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."
UPDATE [7:20 p.m. ET] - Less than 12 hours after the initial statement, Gingrich's presidential campaign was forced to shift strategy after learning that the state of Virginia forbids write-in ballots for primary contests. At the time of the statement, it appears Krull was unaware of the state's law.
In a message Krull posted on the campaign's Facebook page Saturday evening, Christmas Eve, he backed off the initial, and apparently illegal, plan, saying only that the campaign was "exploring alternative methods to compete in Virginia."
In a bizarre move, Krull went on to compare the Virginia ballot ruling to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor - which cost more than 2,000 American lives - describing both as "unexpected setbacks." He also said that in order to re-group and re-focus, "we each need to spend the next 24 hours enjoying our families and friends as much as possible."
Read the whole statement:
By now you've likely heard that our effort to gain access to the primary ballot in Virginia was not successful. This was not due to a lack of effort by our volunteers, but the cumbersome process in Virginia.
We are exploring alternate methods to compete in Virginia - stay tuned.
Going forward, we will be as in-front of the process as possible and with the help of our grassroots volunteers we will make all other deadlines.
Newt and I have talked three or four times today and he stated that this is not catastrophic - we will continue to learn and grow. Remember that it was only a few months ago that pundits and the press declared us dead after the paid consultants left. They declared that the decision not to compete in the Ames Straw Poll would mean that Iowans would ignore us. Some will again state that this is fatal.
Newt and I agreed that the analogy is December 1941: We have experienced an unexpected set-back, but we will re-group and re-focus with increased determination, commitment and positive action. Throughout the next months there will be ups and downs; there will be successes and failures; there will be easy victories and difficult days - but in the end we will stand victorious.
To help achieve that outcome we each need to spend the next 24 hours enjoying our families and friends as much as possible. Enjoy their company. Be grateful for them. Gather strength from them. The promise of a better future for our family and friends is the reason we are committed to rebuilding the America we love.
May the spirit of the season fill each of you. Merry Christmas.
National Campaign Director