Four candidates submitted signatures by the 5:00 pm deadline on Thursday, December 22. Virginia requires a minimum of 10,000 signatures.
Mitt Romney's petitions were submitted first, delivered on Tuesday by his Virginia campaign chairman Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, and thus assuring that his name will be listed first on the ballot.
In addition to Romney and Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich submitted petitions but after examination by staff and volunteers at the Republican Party of Virginia, it was determined they turned in too few signatures to qualify.
Newt Gingrich, who in a recent poll was running neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney among Virginia voters, had addressed a Thursday morning GOP fundraiser in Richmond. After surging in the national polls, his numbers have recently fallen off putting him neck-in-neck with Romney.
Rick Perry appeared at an RPV fundraiser earlier in the year when he was leading the pack of candidates but his numbers began to fall shortly after that appearance after poor debate performances.
The question is how much of an impact this will be on the rest of the nation as the four front-runners continue to jockey for voter attention. Others who did not turn in petitions in Virginia but who are still in the race include Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum.
Will this be a game changer for Newt's campaign? The process of requiring national campaigns to collect 10,000 signatures to appear on Virginia's primary ballot is two-fold: it shows the seriousness of a candidate, and it shows which candidates actually have a grassroots organization that is capable of mounting a nationwide campaign. The lack of names shows a lack of organization for Newt.
Colleague Norm Leahy at Bearing Drift noted that the importance of this process on the nation:
Virginia ... has done the nation a service. It has winnowed the Republican field in advance of, and with greater precision than, the place-proud voters of Iowa and New Hampshire. The press may not be aware of this yet, and certainly the partisans of each campaign will be loathe to admit it, but tickets to the Republican presidential nomination were issued at RPV headquarters in Richmond, Virginia last night.I'm already hearing from people who are upset that Newt didn't make the ballot. We as Republicans believe in personal responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to know the rules and follow them.
Game changer for Newt? Quite possibly. The days ahead will tell.
For RPV, the day ended tragically with the news that one of their volunteers who had worked to certify names was killed on her way home. An early-morning tweet from RPV Executive Director Dave Rexrode:
While today's process is newsworth, the saddest news of today is that we just learned that one of our hard working volunteers was killed in a car accident this afternoon on her way home from checking petitions. Please keep her family in your prayers, especially here on Christmas Eve. #VA_GOPWhat a sad ending to the day.
UPDATE: The crash victim has been identified as Gail Martin, 71, of Louisa. Her husband, Bill, has been hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.