Bal­lot rules de­prive Va. pri­mary of drama

Rom­ney ex­pected to coast to vic­tory with­out ri­val San­to­rum’s op­po­si­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Virginia might well ful­fill its ex­pected role as a swing state in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial race, but strict bal­lot rules have largely re­duced the com­mon­wealth to un­der-card sta­tus on Su­per Tues­day when 10 states hold pri­maries or cau­cuses.

The GOP con­test should be an easy vic­tory for Mitt Rom­ney as re­cent polls show him with a strong lead over Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the only other Re­pub­li­can can­di­date on the Virginia bal­lot.

So tough are the bal­lot-ac­cess rules that the GOP cam­paigns of for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia Sen. Rick San­to­rum and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich could not amass enough sig­na­tures to qual­ify.

A fed­eral judge in Jan­uary blocked a chal­lenge from then- can­di­date Texas Gov. Rick Perry in his last­minute bid to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion.

Still, 49 del­e­gates are up for grabs in the state, three of which are un­bound. Thirty-three del­e­gates go to the win­ning can­di­date in each of the state’s 11 con­gres­sional dis­tricts, with 13 go­ing to the win­ner of the over­all pri­mary.

A Roanoke Col­lege poll re­leased last week showed Mr. Rom­ney with a 56 per­cent to 21 per­cent lead over Mr. Paul.

Virginia claims its swing-state sta­tus in part be­cause Pres­i­dent Obama’s nar­row vic­tory there in 2008 marked the first time in 44 years a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date won the state. And a re­cent Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll shows Mr. Obama for the first time this year ahead of all po­ten­tial GOP ri­vals.

That Mr. Rom­ney will face only Mr. Paul on Tues­day gives a big edge to the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor, and not just be­cause vot­ers can­not cast bal­lots for Mr. San­to­rum, his clos­est ri­val at the mo­ment.

Un­der Virginia’s dis­tri­bu­tion rules, some del­e­gates are awarded pro­por­tion­ally if can­di­dates do not amass more than 50 per­cent of the vote.

Ac­cord­ing to the Roanoke Col­lege poll, adding the two re­main­ing can­di­dates into the mix would give Mr. Rom­ney just 31 per­cent of the vote,

com­pared to 12 per­cent for Mr. Paul, 27 per­cent for Mr. San­to­rum and 13 per­cent for Mr. Gin­grich, who has a home in North­ern Virginia.

Mr. Rom­ney has strong GOP sup­port in Virginia, in­clud­ing Gov. Bob Mcdon­nell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, his state cam­paign chair­man. He also has re­cent en­dorse­ment of for­mer Virginia Rep. Thomas Davis III, known from his days in Congress as a mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­can.

The an­tic­i­pated non­com­pet­i­tive race Tues­day has irked po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cates and sup­port­ers of other can­di­dates.

Cit­i­zens for the Repub­lic, a con­ser­va­tive group that had pushed for more can­di­dates to be al­lowed on the pri­mary bal­lot, is urg­ing Vir­gini­ans to vote for Mr. Paul.

“Elec­tion of­fi­cials in the Old Do­min­ion have de­cided that not ev­ery Re­pub­li­can will be on the bal­lot and in­stead have cho­sen to of­fer a ‘choice’ be­tween Mitt Rom­ney and Ron Paul,” said Bill Pas­coe, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for the Repub­lic. “Virginia Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives know that Mitt Rom­ney is no con­ser­va­tive. He is a big gov­ern­ment Re­pub­li­can who has taken both sides of nearly ev­ery is­sue.”

The ex­pected walkover for Mr. Rom­ney also has al­lowed him to di­rect his at­ten­tion else­where and avoid po­ten­tial ques­tions from Virginia vot­ers about the high-pro­file so­cial is­sues be­ing weighed by the Gen­eral Assem­bly, such as abor­tion and whether life be­gins at con­cep­tion.

Virginia is an open pri­mary state, and vot­ers do not reg­is­ter by party. Write-in can­di­dates, how­ever, are not al­lowed.

Mr. Mcdon­nell has been men­tioned as a po­ten­tial vice pres­i­dent for Mr. Rom­ney and has trav­eled the coun­try to cam­paign for him in re­cent weeks.

“Ev­ery state is im­por­tant be­cause ev­ery state has del­e­gates,” Mr. Mcdon­nell said. The D.C. Coun­cil is look­ing to smooth the process for reg­is­ter­ing a hand­gun in the Dis­trict. What's up with that?

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney is ex­pected to eas­ily win the Virginia pri­mary af­ter ri­val Rick San­to­rum was kept off the bal­lot.

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