Gingrich fails to make the grade in his home state

Newt Gingrich may be leading in polls of Republican voters in the US state of Virginia, but the presidential hopeful's name will not appear on the state's primary ballot, a significant setback for a candidate whose standing in polls has recently been slipping.

The state party said on Christmas Eve that Mr Gingrich and the Texas Governor Rick Perry had failed to submit the required 10,000 signatures to appear on the 6 March ballot.

Failing to get on the ballot in Virginia, where Mr Gingrich lives, underscores the difficulty first-time national candidates have in preparing for the long haul of a presidential campaign. And it illustrates the organisational advantage held by Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who has essentially been running for president for five years.

Mr Romney's team, larger than those of most of his opponents, has paid close attention to filing requirements in each state. He will appear on the Virginia ballot along with Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who also has run a national campaign before.

Ironically, Mr Gingrich had a slight lead over Mr Romney in a Quinnipiac poll of Virginia Republicans released earlier in the week.

The former House speaker surged in popularity in early December, but his standing in polls has slipped in recent days amid a barrage of negative ads in Iowa, where the 3 January caucuses begin the contest proper for the Republican nomination.

AP

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