Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich just submitted signatures to qualify for Virginia’s March 1 primary. Submitting the required signatures is a notable achievement since Virginia’s ballot requirements are among the more stringent in the country.
In even this test of raw political organization, however, the two were bested by current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump submitted his signatures on November 2, the first candidate in either party to try to qualify for the ballot.
Virginia is one of the toughest states to qualify for the ballot. In 2012, just two Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul, were able to get on the ballot, despite the fact that several others were still contenders for the nomination. The Commonwealth requires a candidate to submit 5,000 signatures, but they must also be geographically dispersed. A candidate needs at least 200 signatures from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.
Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore joined former Lt. Governor John Hager in submitting Jeb Bush’s signatures Wednesday in Richmond, the state capital. Bush submitted 10,000 signatures, twice the number legally required.
“Jeb submitted over twice the required signatures needed to appear on Virginia’s ballot, weeks in advance of the December deadline,” Kilgore said. “This is an impressive feat and is possible because Jeb has a strong grassroots network of Virginia volunteers, which will be essential to winning the primary here in the commonwealth on March 1.”
Donald Trump submitted 15,000 signatures, three times the number required. One wonders what Kilgore would make of Trump’s grassroots network in Virginia.
Trump’s steps to qualify for the ballot in Virginia suggest he has a robust political operation on the ground. Many political insiders continue to dismiss Trump’s candidacy on the assumption that it is built on his larger-than-life personality alone. They discount whether he has the experience or temperament to build the kind of political organization necessary to contest the primary state-by-state. It is one thing to pack an arena, they argue, but quite another to build a campaign infrastructure.
Being the first candidate to navigate Virginia’s strict requirements, though, seems to indicate that Trump is building just such an organization. It is a concrete sign that Trump’s candidacy isn’t going away anytime soon.
It is also telling that Bush was the third candidate to submit the necessary signatures. The Bush campaign has defended its high-rate of spending by claiming it was building a large, national political organization. The campaign’s broad experience and organizational abilities would reap dividends when the voting began.
In Virginia, at least, Trump bested Bush’s organization by more than two weeks and 5,000 signatures.
Trump greatly surpassed Bush, turning in over 15,000 signatures while Bush submitted 10,000.