The significance of the Gingrich and Perry failures

Organization and resources.  Those are the two things it takes to win a Presidential primary.  The ingredients are as old as the Republic and they haven’t changed.  One simply needs to read The Making of the President: 1960 and its many progeny to see that.  Campaigns that are weak on organization also tend to be weak on resources and you can get away with having only one of the two, but not both.

Virginia has done the rest of America a great service, as my colleague Norm Leahy indicated earlier today – Virginia just held the first real primary of the 2012 presidential season, and now we know which candidates are legitimate and which ones are going through the motions.  And, from the result, it appears likely that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee in 2012.

So far this Christmas, the bulk of the conversation in my house has been about the Republican presidential nomination.  And I’m proud of the role Virginia has played in clearing up who are the legitimate candidates and who are not.

It is very surprising to most non-Virginians that both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for our primary ballot.  In the modern era, it is rare for candidates who have been touted as front runners to fall down so loudly and publicly before even the first primary ballot or caucus vote has been cast.  But it happened, and it happened to two candidates who the mainstream media, at one point or another, had anointed as “front-runners.”

So what is the actual significance of Gingrich and Perry’s failure (along with Huntsman, Bachmann and Santorum) to make it onto the Virginia ballot?

We now know that Emperors Perry and Gingrich have no clothes.  They may have burst onto the scene or risen from the ranks to leads in national polls, but the reality is neither of them were legitimate candidates who were running a serious primary effort.  Perry at least has the excuse of getting into the race late, in mid-August, over a month after campaigns could begin soliciting signatures for petitions in Virginia.  Gingrich has no excuse at all, as he got into the race in May and he is a Virginia resident, having lived in McLean for over ten years.  He has seen how difficult it is to get on the ballot in Virginia and he should have known better.

We also know that Gingrich doesn’t know anything about Virginia despite living here, because his campaign team has vowed to run a write-in campaign for the nomination here in Virginia – despite the fact that the Virginia Code bars write-in candidates in primary campaigns (VA Code 24.2-644(c).)  This is the same as primary votes for state elections, where the VA Code explicitly bars write-ins. VA Code 24.2-529.  Good call there, Newt.

And as much as these folks want to complain, plenty of other candidates with fewer resources have made it onto the Virginia presidential primary ballot since the rules were loosened in 1999. Here’s a quick list:

2008 – Barack Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, John Edwards; Ron Paul, John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney.

2004 – Al Sharpton, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Dick Gephardt, Lyndon Larouche.

2000 – Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, George W. Bush, John McCain, Steve Forbes.

So, apparently, Lyndon Larouche, Al Sharpton, Alan Keyes, Fred Thompson and Dennis Kucinich ran better organized campaigns for their party nominations than Gingrich and Perry.  Wow.

Iowa and New Hampshire, in my opinion, are less valuable now as predictors of future candidate success thanks to Virginia’s ballot rules.  We’ve demonstrated that only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have the organization or the resources (Romney has both, Paul has a die-hard organization) to win the nomination outright.

At this point, if the mainstream media wants to be accurate, they should only include Romney and Paul as legitimate candidates for the front-runner title.  And given Paul’s inability to poll over 20% in most the country, it seems clear that Romney will be the eventual nominee, barring some kind of miracle for anyone else.

Virginia just helped clear up the fog surrounding the Republican nomination and demonstrated just who are the real viable candidates.

Merry Christmas, America.