Newt Gingrich’s campaign just suffered a rather significant setback this Christmas Eve. The Virginia state GOP has just announced that Newt will be joining Rick Perry on the sidelines of the Virginia primary battle. Gingrich failed to qualify for the state’s ballot. The Virginia GOP released on twitter that both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich failed in reaching the 10,000 minimum signatures, with at least 400 signatures from each of Virginia’s eleven congressional districts, to appear on the ballot.

The grand prize for winning the Virginia primary is a total of 49 delegates, quite a hefty sum in what could be a long and drawn out primary season between our frontrunners who are currently running neck and neck in the most recent polls. What might sting most for Gingrich is that he lead Mitt Romney in Virginia and pointed at the state as a showcase of his campaign’s organizational abilities. Gingrich claimed that he had reached 12,000 to 14,000 signatures and Gingrich’s press secretary boasted, “It’s a demonstration that Gingrich is outrunning Romney in states beyond Iowa.” Clearly not.

Another interesting part of this story is that Newt is one of my neighbors here in Virginia. This is his adopted home state just as New Hampshire is Mitt Romney’s. For him not to qualify for the very state he resides in is quite embarrassing and should bring more doubts about Gingrich’s ground game which was under heavy criticism already. The very fact that he waited to the last minute in Virginia only to send his paid staffers to scramble for signatures reveals a lot about how disciplined his campaign really is.

Virginia will now only have two candidates on the ballot, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. I can tell you, Gingrich has basically handed Romney 49 delegates for Christmas. Any chance of the establishment accepting Newt has now vanished. Expect Newt to receive some brushback from these recent events, something he can ill afford at a time when he is slumping.

Newt responded this morning by blasting the Virginia GOP system, “Only a failed system excludes four out of the six major candidates seeking access to the ballot.  Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates.  We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice.” This, however, is not the failure of the state or the system but rather of the candidate. The rules were clear, fair, and very manageable.

Will Newt’s lack of organization on the ground be his achilles’ heel? Each surging candidate has had their own when challenging Romney for frontrunner status. For Bachmann it was her constant factual inaccuracies, for Perry it was his simply horrendous debate performances, for Cain it was his alleged extramarital affairs and sexual harassment accusations, and now for Newt it may be this. Time will tell how this plays out but for now it can’t be too pleasant of a Christmas for the Gingrich household. Meanwhile, I am sure that right now somewhere in Boston Mitt is sitting on his couch drinking some non-alcoholic eggnog with a wide grin on his face.

Have a Merry Christmas!