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New PAC forms to ‘Draft Newt’ for Virginia Senate run

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A staffer who worked on the 2012 presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich has launched a political action committee to galvanize support to "draft" the former House speaker and current cable news talk show host to run for U.S. Senate next year.

The Draft Newt PAC faces a formidable incumbent Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, a popular former governor first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

"We want a credible challenger to Mark Warner, and no one could do what Newt could do to fight — and win," said Andrew Hemingway, Mr. Gingrich's 2012 state director in New Hampshire and national director of digital fundraising. "U.S. Senator Newt Gingrich would be an immediate game changer, giving conservatives another voice that would take the fight to the Obama administration.

Since July, Mr. Warner has maintained a job approval rating of 61 percent in Quinnipiac University polling, with just 22 percent of voters disapproving in a new survey released Thursday.

"With his history of support for far-reaching government reforms and fiscal sanity — for actually balancing the budget — Newt Gingrich was Tea Party before there was a tea party," said Dan Backer, the PAC's treasurer. "No one can better articulate the values of millions of Virginians seeking an end to government overreach, the repeal of Obamacare and tax relief for hardworking Americans. And, Newt is one of the few potential candidates who can unite tea party conservatives and establishment republicans behind a winning ticket."

But Mr. Gingrich, now a cohost of CNN's "Crossfire," didn't even get an opportunity to do so in his most recent venture into elective politics in the commonwealth.

Earlier this year, a Virginia man pleaded guilty to forging thousands of signatures in trying to get Mr. Gingrich on the ballot in the state's 2012 GOP presidential primary, according to WVIR-TV in Charlottesville.

In December 2011, Adam Ward collected more than 11,000 signatures, according to prosecutors, but investigators could not verify more than 4,000 of them, the NBC affiliate reported.

Mr. Gingrich was one of several GOP presidential candidates who failed to amass the necessary 10,000 petition signatures to get on the Virginia primary ballot and who was part of an unsuccessful lawsuit to try to do so. That led to a one-on-one match-up between eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney and former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican. Mr. Romney took about 60 percent of the vote.

At a campaign stop in Iowa in December 2011, Mr. Gingrich essentially admitted as much, though his estimate differs from the number of signatures investigators said they could not verify.

"We hired somebody who turned in false signatures," he said then. "We turned in 11,100 — we needed 10,000 — 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud."

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