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GOP: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry fail to qualify for Virginia primary

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have failed to qualify for Virginia's March 6 Republican primary.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have failed to qualify for Virginia's March 6 Republican primary.

The Republican Party of Virginia announced late Friday and early Saturday that Gingrich and Perry fell short of the 10,000 signatures of registered voters required for a candidate's name to be on the ballot.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul met the threshold and will be on the ballot.

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.

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.

"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 early Saturday via Twitter.

Shipley was unavailable for comment on the announcement.

Gingrich's campaign attacked Virginia's primary system on Saturday, saying that "only a failed system" would disqualify Gingrich and other candidates and vowing to run a write-in campaign.

"Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Gingrich campaign director Michael Krull said in a statement. "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."

However, according to state law, "No write-in shall be permitted on ballots in primary elections."

The 10,000 registered voters had to include 400 signatures from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts.

The development is a major setback for Gingrich, who has tried to use his recent upsurge in popularity to make up for a late organizing start.

A Quinnipiac poll of Virginia Republicans released earlier in the week suggested that Gingrich had a slight lead over Romney.

Gingrich 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 represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, but has lived in McLean, Va., an upscale Washington suburb, while he's worked in the private sector.

Gingrich's early-December rise in several polls gave him renewed hopes of carrying his campaign deep into the primary season.

In a statement, Perry's campaign described the signature shortfall in Virginia as a "isolated situation."

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks to workers and local residents after touring the TPI Iowa wind blade manufacturing facility, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Charlie Neibergall / AP

"We will closely review the facts and law to determine whether an appeal or challenge is warranted," the statement added. "Governor Perry has the utmost respect for the strong place Virginia holds in our nation's economic and military strength and in American history. He will continue to work hard to build strong support in Virginia and earn the trust of conservative-minded voters there."

It was unclear if Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman submitted petitions to the state board.

Meanwhile, Virginia's Democrats said President Barack Obama's re-election campaign gathered enough signatures to get him on the state's primary ballot.

As he is the only candidate who qualified, the state's Board of Elections will likely cancel the scheduled primary election.