Santorum and Gingrich backers have few options in Virginia

Santorum and Gingrich
CBS/AP
Lost in the run-up to Super Tuesday is the predicament awaiting many Virginians when they take to the polls. Only the names of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will appear on the state's primary ballots, leaving would-be Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum voters looking for alternative ways to help their candidate.

"I'm frustrated and a little angry," Santorum supporter Mark Tate said. "There are a lot of dissatisfied conservatives and middle of the road voters who can't vote for who they want."

Both Gingrich and Santorum failed to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures required to be listed on the ballots. While the Gingrich campaign submitted more than 11,100 signatures by the Dec. 22 deadline, the State Board of Elections determined at least 1,500 of them were invalid.

"We had hoped to have a full slate of candidates, and when it turned out there were two, we were extremely disappointed," Garren Shipley, spokesman for the Republican Party of Virginia, said.

Gingrich and Santorum supporters who want to stop Romney from becoming the inevitable nominee now have just two options: vote for Ron Paul or don't vote at all.

Virginia Republican State Delegate Bob Marshall, who has not endorsed any candidate, has encouraged both Gingrich and Santorum supporters to vote for Paul. Marshall is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in a race against former Sen. George Allen.

"The only way this works is for [all three campaigns] to publicly come out and tell everyone to vote for Ron Paul," Marshall said. "If not, then this is not a viable strategy. If they don't want Romney, it's the only option."

It is not clear if more than a handful of Gingrich and Santorum supporters are backing the the Texas lawmaker, but Tate, of Clarke County, Va., said those that are focused on keeping Romney off the Republican ticket.

"I have a lot of friends who are Santorum and Gingrich supporters who plan to vote for Ron Paul in protest just to deny Romney delegates," Tate said.

Chris Shores, of Farmville, Va., said he would "enthusiastically" vote for Gingrich if the former speaker's name were the ballot. Despite the circumstances, however, Shores said he isn't afraid to cast his vote for the sake of denying Romney a portion of the state's 49 delegates.

"This whole ballot problem is doing the state and the Republican Party of Virginia a disservice," Shores said, "but any time you can deny Romney delegates, that's a win for everyone else."

The requirements for getting on the Virginia ballot have been loudly criticized.

"The state could make it a little less stringent in terms of the number of signatures," said Shores, suggesting lawmakers "lower the threshold a bit to streamline the process."

Alex Harris, of Leesburg, Va., said he is frustrated that he won't be allowed to vote for Rick Santorum on Tuesday, but said that has not stopped him from rallying campaign support.

"There is a sentiment of, 'we can still do a lot to help,'" Harris said. "This shouldn't keep any of us from drumming up grassroots support."

Harris admitted he has not decided what he will do on Tuesday. "I never thought that I would be forced to consider not voting," he said. "There isn't really a winning scenario."

As disenfranchised Virginians struggle to accept their unfamiliar reality, voting for Ron Paul remains the preferred strategy for Shores and others - short of not voting at all.

"I am a Ron Paul supporter for one day and one day only," Shores said. "And that day is March 6."

  • Chad Sinclair

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