UPDATE: The Perry campaign is taking legal action to appear on the Virginia ballot arguing the current process involves both onerous and unconstitutional requirements. Curiously, Newt has neither filed a lawsuit or hinted at possible legal action to my knowledge.
Full disclosure: I am a Rick Perry delegate representing the state of Tennessee.
Here are some musings on the Virginia ballot mess for what they're worth. And yes, when 5 of 7 major GOP candidates are excluded from a state ballot, mess is an apt description of the situation. RedState contributor Neil Stevens tweeted that he hadn't seen so many candidates tossed from a ballot since the Iranian Presidential election. Possibly true. Regardless, there is a certain absurdity to the whole episode, especially as the story continues to unfold.
My friends at Team Perry instructed me to gain well above the necessary signature threshold, as the Secretary of State's office would inevitably disqualify some of the signatures. In fact, the Tennessee SoS disqualified roughly 20% of my signatures due to various signature infractions. I still managed to qualify. I mention this simply to elaborate and explain that capturing valid signatures isn't as easy as it seems. In Tennessee, voters must print their name, sign their name and include their residence as it appeared on their registration card. Easy Peasy right? Wrong. Many seasoned citizens had a hard time reading the instructions without their reading glasses and left off a signature or complete address. Some voters included their business addresses. Disqualified. Some voters forgot to update their registration to their new address. Disqualified. Some people were embarrassed to admit they weren't registered voters but signed my petition anyway. And since I didn't slip any truth serum in their drinks... Disqualified. Some signees were convicted felons. Dis--Okay. Just joking on that one (I hope). Others failed to realize their voter registration lapsed since they hadn't voted in so long. Suffice it to say, it's inevitable that many signatures will be thrown out during the validation process for various reasons.
Before delving deeper into this blog post, readers should first familiarize themselves with RedState contributor Moe Lane's excellent points here. All interested parties ought to review his analysis of the fiasco, as my reflections are based in large part on his latest assessment. If you are operating under the assumption that all you need is 10,000+ signatures and you are golden, it will change the way you play the game and use your resources. Keep in mind that Perry got into the game late and has had to play catchup w/ Mitt Romney who's been running for President since he was in the first grade and amassing a fortune since then and Ron Paul who's been running for President since television began appearing in color while inspiring millions of devoted followers across the fruited plain by promising to legalize pot.
All that being said, I think Newt and Perry deserve some more grace from GOP voters than Santorum, Bachmann and Huntsman, because both Newt and Perry actually organized in VA and turned in over 10,000 signatures. By all appearances, they attempted to play by the Virginia Republican Party's rules and thought they made the ballot. The problem, it seems clear now, is that the rules changed late in the game. Whether the referees notified Perry and Newt of the rules change (or the fairness thereof) is an open question.
I contacted via Twitter a prominent political scientist familiar with Virginia politics that Virginia lawmakers ought to pass legislation enabling GOP contenders polling 5%+ an automatic ballot berth. To my surprise, he responded to my tweet: "Something like that ought to be done. I doubt they'll do it in time for March 6 primary--or much earlier ballot printing." He has a good point. The logistics of conducting an election will work against Newt and Perry.
In the last 24 hours, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has called for Virginia lawmakers to reform Virginia's burdensome ballot requirements in order to make Virginia relevant in primary contest. Although Republicans hold majorities in Virginia's legislature, I am not optimistic they will be able to resolve this fiasco satisfactorily in time for the primary.
Alas, the only likely redress ending with Newt and Perry on the ballot involves a lawsuit. It is truly unfortunate that Virginia party leaders have mishandled this process so badly. They've effectively disenfranchised Virginians and reduced their primary Presidential choices to an ineffective RINO libertarian congressman who routinely dons a tin foil hat and a Massachusetts moderate who inspired Obamacare and raised taxes on businesses 20% during his one term.
One last thought: how candidates handle adversity reveals a lot about their leadership and character. Perry's public response has essentially been muted. It remains to be seen if he will issue any more public utterances on the situation, although I think it likely he will be forced to address the dilemma sometime soon. This strategy is probably wise considering many voters haven't been paying close attention to the Virginia ballot fiasco over the last few days. Further, it gives Team Perry time to work the VRP channels privately and see if anything can be done before issuing any additional remarks. Newt's response, however, leaves much to be desired. Comparing the ballot snafu with Pearl Harbor is beyond ridiculous. Moreover, Newt has an unyielding proclivity to blow things out of proportion to include his opinion of himself (i.e. his comparing himself to Churchill, Thatcher and Reagan).
Headed to Iowa later this week. Talk soon!