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Virginia's Primary May Be Problematic For Front-Runner

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Republican presidential candidates, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, right, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney share a laugh during a break in a Republican presidential debate at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File
Republican presidential candidates, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, right, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney share a laugh during a break in a Republican presidential debate at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

The strict requirements to get on Virginia's primary ballot has made the race a two-man contest between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. But the candidates who didn't make it -- because they didn't submit the prerequisite number of signatures by the December deadline -- aren't getting any pity from Republicans,  including Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).

"I don't think it takes away from it, particularly," says Forbes of the March 6 primary. "I think, obviously, you like people to be on the ballot that are running. But, you do have rules and those campaigns have to follow the rules, and the problem is when they don't, you can't come back and change the rules or it wouldn't be fair to everybody. People that have complied with the rules are going to be on the ballot, and that's what elections are all about."

But having only half of the field on Tuesday's ballot comes with complications of its own, especially for Romney, the front-runner. Some call it mischief; others say they're happily protesting Romney who has yet to woo many conservatives. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) predicts Romney will do well, though he's expecting Paul to attract votes from supporters of those who didn't make the cut.

"I think Mitt Romney probably wins, but I do think you'll see strong Ron Paul," says Griffith. "One, he's strong in the state, and two, I think he may get some folks that decide they're going to vote for him instead of voting for Romney in order to send a message about Santorum and Gingrich not being on the ballot.

In other states with open primaries, Democrats came out just to oppose Romney because he's seen by many as the biggest threat to President Obama in the fall. But Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and other Democratic lawmakers in the region say that's not going to be widespread in Virginia.

"I hear somebody suggest that, I say, 'Don't do that, don't do that. That's silly, that's inappropriate,'" says Moran. "I know there's no organized effort, and I don't think there's going to be much crossover."

Not everyone's heeding Moran's advice though. Alexandria resident Mike Cherlow says he's voting for Paul just to support the President.

"Well, considering only Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot, I would be voting for Ron Paul, not because I particularly think he'd be a good president, but it would help to derail the Romney nomination," Cherlow says.

With only two candidates on the ballot, many Republicans in Virginia are worrying the state's primary will be eclipsed by the nine other states that also weigh in on the GOP contest on Super Tuesday.

This story was informed in part by sources in WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories. Learn more about the Public Insight Network.


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