In the 2012 campaign, an early sign of trouble for Newt Gingrich was his failure to make the Virginia primary ballot.
Barring a major organizational misfire, there’s little doubt that the top-tier Republicans with big money operations – Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump – will be on the ballot nationwide. But for everyone else – including Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul, whose campaigns say they are on track to be on the ballot everywhere – ballot access is an expensive challenge.
Carly Fiorina’s campaign, which says she will appear on the ballot everywhere, has estimated ballot access will cost her $2 million. In a video sent to her supporters this week, she complained about the difficulty of the endeavor by accusing “party bosses” of trying to “rig the game…to protect the establishment candidates and then try to keep everyone else out.”
“Every conservative candidate deserves to be on the ballot,” Fiorina said. “Not just those with Jeb Bush money or Hillary Clinton money.”
In Alabama, one of the few states where the filing deadline has passed, neither Jim Gilmore nor George Pataki, two longshot former governors running bare bones 2016 campaigns, paid the $10,000 fee to appear on the March 1 ballot. Failing to file guarantees that Gilmore and Pataki won’t win any of Alabama’s 50 delegates up for grabs next year.
While it’s true mathematically that candidates need not compete in every state to win the nomination, the political reality is that each failure to appear on a ballot undermines a candidate’s credibility as a national figure. “Nobody pats you on the back if you get on every ballot,” Ginsberg explained. “But if you don’t get on the ballot in every state, boy, there are huge ramifications for your campaign.”
The Republican National Lawyers Association made all their jobs much easier when, for the first time, it made available a state-by-state guide to getting on the ballot, free of charge, to every campaign this year. The so-called “Ballot Access Initiative” document is likely saving campaigns thousands of dollars in research costs.