IT’S GOING TO BE A LONG CAMPAIGN SEASON…. The Virginia Republican Party thought it had the perfect new attack to go after Reps. Rick Boucher and Tom Perriello, Democratic incumbents the GOP considers vulnerable. Instead, we have yet another example of the contemporary Republican Party’s intellectual rigor, or lack thereof.

Last week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered an address to Congress, and some lawmakers stood to applaud when Calderon called for American policymakers to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

The Virginia Republican Party pounced. If House Dems applauded the line about the assault weapons ban, and Boucher and Perriello are House Dems, then Boucher and Perriello must want to bring back the assault weapons ban. The state GOP put together an attack ad showing footage of the applause, demanding to know if Boucher and Perriello were among the participants.

The Virginia Republican Party forgot to do their homework.

Sensing a blockbuster investigative opportunity, the [LA Times’ political blog] did its due diligence and called both offices (as requested by the commercials and the party chairman) to find out if they gave Calderon a standing O.

The suspense lasted for about 30 seconds: Nope.

Boucher opposes reinstating the assault weapons ban, has an A+ rating from the NRA, has picked up an NRA endorsement, and wasn’t even in the room for Calderon’s speech. Likewise, Perriello didn’t attend the speech, and has written to the Justice Department to express his formal opposition to reinstating the assault weapon ban.

So, the Virginia Republican Party screwed up. It can happen to anyone. They got a little lazy, chose not to do their due diligence, and ended up looking stupid. They can just pull the dishonest attack ad, and go after Boucher and Perriello over something else.

Except, the state GOP is refusing to back down, and will continue to air the ad the party now knows is wrong. As the Virginia Republican Party sees it, Boucher and Perriello didn’t condemn the speech they didn’t hear, so therefore, it’s fair to suggest they might support the policy they oppose.

The mind reels.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.