The Campaign Spot

Were the Virginia Ballot Requirements Unreasonable?

Moe Lane and Richard Winger take a long look at the rules for getting on the Virginia Republican presidential-primary ballot, and conclude that the candidates who didn’t make the ballot this year — everyone except Mitt Romney and Ron Paul — have something of an excuse: that the rules changed in December and that if the bar to qualify for the ballot wasn’t raised by itself, then certainly the recommended “cushion” was raised significantly.

Moe writes:

If it is true that the Republican party of Virginia decided in November of 2011 to increase the threshold for automatic certification from 10K to 15K, then it is reasonable to suggest that this was a change that unfairly rewarded candidates who had previously run for President in Virginia. Even if you dispute that, if this story checks out then it is still completely unreasonable to compare the Gingrich/Perry campaigns to any historical Presidential campaign in Virginia: if this was 2008 or 2000, they’d both be on the ballot themselves and the subject wouldn’t have even come up.

That point is perfectly valid. But part of what makes a presidential campaign a serious endeavor — as opposed to being, say, a really high-profile book tour — is having someone on the campaign who pays attention to these sorts of things. These are generally non-volunteer positions (or at least less frequently volunteer positions) that handle the details: ballot-access rules, requirements and deadlines, FEC filings, and so on. Running for president isn’t just fun and games and rallies and media interviews. Paperwork may stink, but that doesn’t mean that one can ignore it. It seems clear that Gingrich, who experienced his high-profile exodus of staffers earlier in the year, lacks someone on his team who follows these sorts of things; otherwise he never would have pledged a vigorous write-in campaign in a contest that does not permit write-in votes. (In his response to this development, Gingrich’s campaign manager sneers at the “paid consultants” who left.)

Readers can decided for themselves if Gingrich helps himself with comparisons like this:

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.

Is it unreasonable to expect a candidate to find 15,000 Virginians to sign a petition? The commonwealth does not register voters by party, so we can’t say how many “registered Republicans” are in Virginia; however, 487,656 Virginians voted in the 2008 GOP presidential primary.

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