Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, state GOP officials said Friday evening and early Saturday.
The Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday that Gingrich and Perry failed to submit 10,000 signatures of registered voters required to get their names on the ballot for the March 6 primary.
“After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the party announced on Twitter.
The rejection is a significant setback for the Gingrich campaign since he is leading the polls in Virginia among likely Republican voters and is seen as a strong contender for the nomination.
Perry’s campaign told state election officials it had submitted 11,911 signatures, and Gingrich’s campaign said it submitted 11,050 signatures. State party officials spent Friday night validating the signatures.
Earlier Friday, the Republican Party of Virginia certified former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) to appear on the ballot.
The four candidates turned in thousands of signatures by the 5 p.m. deadline Thursday.
Jerry Kilgore, former attorney general and chairman of Perry’s campaign in Virginia, said he was disappointed, but that qualifying for the Virginia ballot is a “daunting task.”
“Hopefully, he will do better in other states,’’ he said. “He can focus on other states.”
Candidates had until 5 p.m. to collect 10,000 signatures from across the state, including 400 from each of the 11 congressional district.
Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum did not submit signatures and failed to qualify on Thursday, according to state GOP officials.
Virginia, an increasingly important swing state, will hold its primary on Super Tuesday, March 6.
Romney became the first Republican presidential candidate Tuesday to submit signatures for Virginia’s primary election ballot.
On Thursday morning, Gingrich said at an event outside Richmond that his campaign was still collecting signatures, but expected to have enough.
A poll released Wednesday showed Gingrich with a slight lead over Romney among Virginia Republicans in the race for president. The Quinnipiac University poll shows Gingrich at 30 percent and Romney at 25 percent among Republican voters.
President Obama was the first presidential candidate to submit his signatures Dec. 2.
The Democratic Party of Virginia certified his signatures Friday. He was the only Democrat to qualify for the ballot so the State Board of Elections will cancel the primary. All Virginia delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be cast for him, said Brian Moran, party chairman.