Virginiageddon: Gingrich Says Fraud Ruined the Ballot

CNN reports that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is blaming a massive act of fraud by a single campaign employee for his failure to meet Virginia’s primary ballot requirements:

On a campaign stop at an Algona chocolate store, the former House speaker said the “mistake” occurred because one of their workers committed fraud.

“We hired somebody who turned in false signatures. We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud.”

The campaign called the Virginia ballot qualification process a “failed system” after they learned that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were the only candidates that were successful.

(Emphasis mine.)  Gingrich actually made appearances in Virginia as recently as last week, assuring supporters that his well-organized campaign had easily surpassed the number of signatures required.  According to Fox News, he’s not sure what his next move against the “failed system” will be:

The Gingrich campaign tells Fox News they are still evaluating their options in Virginia: whether to sue to get on the ballot, which is the strategy Governor Rick Perry’s campaign has taken, or whether to force the Virginia Board of Elections to allow write-ins. The Virginia legislature convenes January 11.

“I would like to be on the ballot or I would like to have the legislature give us the ability to have a write-in campaign,” the presidential hopeful told reporters Wednesday morning. “Every poll in Virginia shows me beating Romney in Virginia so I would love to be able to at least have a write-in campaign.”

Some media accounts of the Virginia debacle have implied there’s something faintly scandalous about hiring “volunteers” to collect petition signatures.  (Politics is full of delightful oxymorons like “paid volunteer.”)  Given the numbers involved, it sounds like Gingrich hired perhaps a dozen people to work full-time harvesting those signatures, and one oxymoron decided to fabricate fifteen hundred John Hancocks instead of pounding the pavement.  That’s an almost astonishing act of mendacity.

It could also be a devastating act of sabotage for a campaign, although I’ve seen no evidence that was the case in this particular incident.  How hard would it be for some bitter “activist” who decides a candidate must be stopped at all costs to land a job collecting signatures, spend a couple of hours holed up with the local phone book and a ball-point pen, and produce the fraudulent documents needed to knock their nemesis out of contention in a state like Virginia?  Campaign managers will need to learn from this example, and more carefully vet both their volunteers (paid or otherwise) and the paperwork they submit.

Gingrich did get a piece of good news today: the endorsement of supply-side legend Arthur Laffer.  As Larry Kudlow writes at National Review, Laffer is particularly impressed with the flat tax plan Gingrich doesn’t spend nearly enough time talking about:

“The purpose of economic policy is growth, jobs, and prosperity,” supply-side founder Art Laffer told me today. As such, Laffer has endorsed Newt Gingrich and the Gingrich 15 percent flat-tax plan, which includes the 12.5 percent corporate-tax reform. “It’s nothing against the other candidates,” Laffer said. “But Newt’s plan is right, and therefore endorsing him is the right thing to do.”

Laffer is concerned with the fact that Mitt Romney has no tax-reform plan, and he worries that Romney doesn’t believe in the incentive model of economic growth. “He’s a good man,” Laffer said. “And he would make a good president. But he needs a bold tax plan.”

Art Laffer believes the Gingrich plan would help jolt the economy to 4 or 5 percent growth. And he also is impressed that Gingrich has been talking about King Dollar on the campaign trail along with his supply-side tax strategy.

Laffer would really come in handy on the campaign trail:

What about the inevitable criticism from Obama that a flat tax is a huge tax cut for the rich? “Listen,” Art told me. “We want to make the poor, rich. And you can’t love jobs while hating job-creators.”

Kudlow thinks Gingrich did himself a lot of damage by getting distracted from the economic growth superhighway, and wandering down blind alleys in which federal marshals are slapping the cuffs on activist judges.  It’s remarkable how easily all of the candidates got distracted from the winning issues of growth, fiscal sanity, and job creation.  The early primaries and caucuses would be a good time for them to show us how focused they can be.