Petitions to grant ballot access to the South Carolina Senator have passed the Republican Party of Virginia’s pre-check process, meaning his name will be placed on the presidential primary ballot alongside Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Jeb “Juggernaut” Bush, who have all cleared the RPV process. Most have also completed the filing requirement with the State Board of Elections.
RPV Chairman John Whitbeck has also indicated that the campaigns of Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee have scheduled pre-checks with the party, as has former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore. Candidates have until December 10 to submit the required 5000 signatures, including at least 250 from each of Virginia’s 11 Congressional Districts, to the State Board of Elections. The state party is responsible then for validating the signatures. The party’s pre-check process is meant to speed validation of the signatures and give the candidates a chance to correct any deficiencies before the deadline.
Assuming the additional candidates all submit sufficient numbers of valid signatures, that means voters in the Republican primary will have to choose from among 12 candidates, in contrast to the paltry choice in 2012 between just Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. All of these campaigns deserve credit for deploying the organizational effort necessary to get this done.
Not all of these candidates are created equal, however. Some, like Cruz, Trump, and Bush, have demonstrated a very solid ground game in Virginia. Others, including Fiorina, Rubio, Kasich, and Carson, have good staff organizations and appear to be getting the ball rolling.
Of course, most voters, including those in Virginia, will make up their minds according to what they read in the newspaper and see on television, but in a crowded field a good grassroots ground game can make all the difference.
The Cruz, Trump, and Fiorina campaigns appear to grasp this, and are taking full advantage of the upcoming Republican Party of Virginia Advance, an annual gathering of party activists, donors, and politicos, to be held this year on December 11-13 at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. These campaigns will wisely be hosting hospitality suites, and will be on hand all weekend to meet and schmooze with the folks who will form the backbone of successful candidates’ grassroots operations in state.
The Advance is by no means a make-or-break opportunity for any candidate, but it could be a sign of how seriously the campaigns are taking Virginia. We shall see, soon enough.