Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to garner enough signatures to appear on the GOP presidential primary ballot in Virginia, leaving former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul as the only Republican candidates to qualify for the ballot in the crucial swing state as of early Friday evening.
The commonwealth's stringent ballot requirements left Mr. Perry and, potentially, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in the lurch.
Candidates had until 5 p.m. on Thursday to file their presidential petitions and signatures necessary to secure a spot on the ballot. They need at least 10,000 signatures and 400 from each of Virginia's 11 Congressional districts to qualify, but the party recommended submitting at least 15,000 to account for mishaps and errors.
Mr. Paul turned in 14,361 signatures, Mr. Perry turned in 11,911 and Mr. Gingrich had 11,050, according to the state Board of Elections. Mr. Romney's Virginia campaign chairman, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, submitted more than 16,000 signatures on Tuesday, and President Obama's campaign delivered over 15,000 earlier this month.
The Democratic Party of Virginia earlier Friday certified the signatures for Mr. Obama. In a statement, party chairman Brian J. Moran said since the president was the only candidate to qualify for the for the Democratic primary, he expected the State Board of Elections to cancel the scheduled presidential primary in the state.
The Republican Party of Virginia was still examining Mr. Gingrich's signatures, but hoped to finish by the end of the night.
Paul Goldman, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, had said that given the narrow margin by which Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Perry made it across the threshold, as well as historical levels of signatures tossed out, it would have been difficult for them to amass the required number to qualify. Republican candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and John Huntsman had already failed to get on the ballot by missing the 5 p.m. Thursday deadline.
For a major candidate not to get on the ballot in a state as big as Virginia would be a significant blow to the party, Mr. Goldman said. Mr. Gingrich has surged to the top of national polls, though his support in Gallup tracking polls has waned from 37 percent from a survey early this month to 26 percent in a survey conducted from Dec. 18-22.
Mr. Romney, meanwhile, has held relatively steady over the same time period, and stands at 22 percent. Mr. Paul bested Mr. Romney in two Iowa caucus polls early in the week, though he trailed 25 percent to 20 percent in the most recent poll from Rasmussen Reports.
"Imagine if it was Obama and Hilllary and Hillary said, 'OK, sorry, I guess we'll have to concede Virginia, sorry.' It would be a major blow," Mr. Goldman said. "We're not Wyoming. We've got more delegates than North Carolina. If you're looking at a marathon, you're looking at a real slugfest, you can't be in the business of just conceding states."
Virginia's primary is scheduled to be held on March 6, one of about ten primaries and caucuses to be held on "Super Tuesday." Candidates need approximately 1,142 delegates to secure the Republican nomination, and Virginia has 49 up for grabs.
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