Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has not had an easy go of it this campaign season, but his latest gaffe might be the worst yet.
In a spectacular failure of organizational prowess, the Virginia Republican Party announced this week that both Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) failed to acquire enough signatures from Virginia voters to appear on the state's presidential primary ballot.
Worse still for Perry, it appears that only about half of the 11,900 signatures his campaign submitted were even valid.
After numerous humiliating blunders on the campaign trail, missing access to the Virginia ballot could be a near-fatal blow to Perry's candidacy.
The state's Republican delegates count for about 10 percent of the total up for grabs on March 6, otherwise known as "Super Tuesday," when 10 states all hold simultaneous primary elections. For a candidate lagging so far behind in the polls, Super Tuesday is a potential game-changer for any candidate, but Perry now appears to be disqualified from a large portion of the total delegate pool.
Seeing that this poses such a critical threat to the campaign, team Perry filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the Virginia elections board, seeking to rebuff the Virginia GOP's claim that he had not secured enough valid signatures.
In years past, the state parties were not as thorough in checking the validity of petitions, but Virginia GOP officials decided this year to look very closely after a legal tussle with a lesser known local candidate who was denied ballot access.
And it's that new emphasis on validating the democratic process that has so tripped Perry up. Stunningly, the campaign's legal complaint seems to reveal just how severely off Perry's signature collection effort was.
According to the Virginia GOP, Perry turned in 11,900 signatures, well over the required 10,000 -- in years past, that would have automatically qualified him for the primary ballot, no questions asked. But in the campaign's court filing, the text explains that Perry "submitted to the Board over 6,000 petition signatures from qualified Virginia voters," suggesting that nearly half of Perry's petition entries were examined by the state party and struck down.
It is not clear exactly why so many signatures were struck down, or exactly how many the Virginia GOP actually ruled to be invalid, but logic dictates that team Perry would cite as many legitimate signatures as possible on their legal complaint.
The Perry campaign and the Virginia GOP did not respond to requests for comment.
For Gingrich, his failure to qualify is not much of a surprise: he's long been chided for lacking organizational strength, lagging behind on repayment of debts and generally running a shoestring campaign.
The failure to qualify for ballot access could also severely damage Gingrich's shot at the nomination, as he was looking at a slight lead in the state even as his numbers have collapsed elsewhere.
With Perry and Gingrich off the Virginia ballot, the state's race essentially boils down to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), the two leading candidates in most of the early state contests.
The Iowa caucuses kick off the nation's primary election season on January 3.
(H/T: Hot Air)