Discuss as:

Virginia ballot deadline looms large for Gingrich campaign

Newt Gingrich is facing more ballot access issues as state filing deadlines approach, most harrowing being Virginia's Dec. 23 deadline to qualify for the state's primary ballot.

Thursday's deadline for Republican candidates to get their names on the ballot looms large, especially for the former House speaker's campaign, which has struggled to overcome organizational challenges and qualify for some of the largest primaries.

With 46 delegates at stake as part of Virginia's March 6 (Super Tuesday) primary, the state has some of the toughest ballot access requirements in the country. Candidates must get 10,000 signatures from qualified voters, including 400 signatures from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts. If candidates submit the required signatures to the State Board of Election by 5:00pm on Thursday, those petitions go to the state party for verification.

Once the petitions go to the state party, dozens of volunteers will spend their pre-Christmas Eve Friday verifying the signatures. But any candidate with more than 15,000 signatures is usually verified without and detailed signature by signature check.

Mitt Romney’s campaign announced yesterday that Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who is Romney’s state chairman, would file the former Massachusetts governor’s petition papers with the State Board of Elections. The Romney campaign tells NBC News it gathered more than 16,000 signatures (16,026 signatures to be exact), putting Romney well over the 15,000 mark.

A GOP source tells NBC News that the Ron Paul campaign will bring in more than 12,000 signatures.

The Gingrich campaign appears to be on less stable ground. Earlier today, Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News that the campaign is trying to get double the number of required signatures in Virginia. Gingrich himself, however, seemed less sure Monday afternoon, telling reporters that the campaign is scrambling to file in the Old Dominion.

“We barely made it in Ohio and we may barely make it Thursday in Virginia,” said Gingrich. “We're asking all of our friends in Virginia to go to Newt.org and volunteer to get petitions signed in the next 48 hours.”

To that end, the campaign sent out an email to supporters Monday asking for help getting on the Virginia ballot. The email, which also announced Gingrich will himself be in Virginia Wednesday for a rally, asked supporters to get people out to one of nearly a dozen signature stations the campaign has set up in at least eight of the state’s 11 congressional districts.

Despite the campaign’s effort to get double the required signatures, the campaign may barely crest  the 10,000 mark. When those signatures go to the state party for verification, the campaign runs the risk of falling below the necessary number of signatures to get on the ballot. Even one signature below the 10,000 valid names required would disqualify a candidate from being on the March ballot.

NBC's Alex Moe and Garrett Haake contributed to this post.