Newt Gingrich speaks to the media after a rally in Richmond, Va., on Thursday. (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
In the latest sign that his campaign organization hasn't kept pace with his recent rise in the polls, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the primary ballot in his home state of Virginia, the state Republican Party announced early Saturday.
The party, in a Twitter feed, said the former House speaker did not submit enough valid petition signatures to meet the state’s 10,000-signature threshold. Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress, now lives in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington with his wife Callista and has voted there over the last decade.
Gingrich made a last-ditch effort to meet the filing deadline but fell short. He added campaign events in Virginia this week and appeared at a fundraising breakfast for the state GOP in the state capital of Richmond on Thursday. He said Thursday that he expected to file enough signatures to qualify.
After state GOP officials verified the signatures submitted by the campaigns, both Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to qualify. That left only two candidates, Mitt Romney and former Rep. Ron Paul, certified to appear on the state’s March 6 "Super Tuesday" ballot.
Gingrich's campaign blamed the Virginia rules for his failure to qualify and said he would mount a write-in campaign instead.
"Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot. Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Gingrich campaign manager 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."
In less than two weeks, Gingrich faces a more immediate -- and consequential test -- of his nomination chances: the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. That contest, conducted at a series of meetings across the state, has traditionally rewarded the best-organized candidates. The Gingrich campaign has been scrambling to put recruit leaders in as many of the state’s 1,774 precincts as possible.
Winning Iowa is considered all but essential to Gingrich's presidential hopes. Recent polling suggests that his popularity there has fallen as Paul, Perry and allies of Romney have hammered him for weeks with negative ads over ethics, issues such as global warming and $1.6 million in payments he received from Freddie Mac, the mortgage firm blamed by many conservatives for causing the housing crash.