With the Iowa caucuses less than two weeks away and New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries right behind them, Newt Gingrich is bound for---Virginia.
Gingrich will campaign in the state Wednesday and Thursday, even though its GOP presidential primary isn’t until March. And therein lies the problem.
The former House speaker has been struggling to amass enough signatures to get on the Virginia ballot before Thursday’s deadline. He needs 10,000—and at least 400 from every congressional district. It’s not a small state, as anyone who’s ever driven from Washington, D.C., to Bristol can tell you.
The question with Gingrich has long been whether he can assemble an organization to match the momentum he acquired seemingly out of thin air last month. He barely made the ballot in Ohio this month.
Gingrich told reporters in Iowa this week that he expected to “barely” make it on the Virginia slate as well. Late Wednesday, it seemed that he had reached his goal. His campaign tweeted that it had cleared the 10,000 mark.
Should that be the case, the state could be important to Gingrich’s chances. If he can drag a nominating fight out with Mitt Romney past the Jan. 31 Florida primary, then the March 6 Virginia primary would loom large as part of a “Super Tuesday” of contests that include primaries in Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio and Tennessee, among others.
He could fare well in the commonwealth, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University. It found Gingrich leading the GOP field in the state over Romney 30% to 25%. In a head-to-head matchup, which could be the case by March 6, Gingrich swamps Romney 47% to 39%.
The Achilles’ heel for Gingrich, as it has been so far during the campaign, is a potential matchup against Obama. The poll found that Romney would best Obama in the state, but Obama would vanquish Gingrich in a general election by five percentage points.
Of course, you can’t win, if you don’t play. Gingrich’s first step is to get on the ballot.