Under normal circumstances, you’d think today’s Republican presidential primary in Missouri would be a real barn-burner. It’s a reasonably large state which usually makes the general election “battleground” lists, and the primary is strategically placed in the calendar to provide either a comeback opportunity for the early state losers, or a clinching argument for the front-runner.

But instead, Newt Gingrich didn’t bother to seek a place on the ballot, and neither Mitt Romney nor Ron Paul is campaigning in Mizzou. Moreover, local Republicans are savagely attacking the event as a waste of taxpayer money.

Turns out the whole thing is a big mistake. In compliance with this year’s RNC rules, Missouri Republicans decided to move the primary to March. But the bill the legislature passed to do so succumbed to a veto because it contained non-germane elements offensive to the governor, and Republican solons couldn’t get it together to enact a clean bill. To avoid RNC sanctions, the state GOP decided to hold a caucus in March to select delegates, leaving the now-meaningless primary in place.

“Stupidity,” said state Sen. Kevin Engler, a Republican and the author of a bill to do away with today’s primary, of the so-called “beauty contest” vote. ” “It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my time in the legislature.”

The only Republican who seems pleased with the scenario is Rick Santorum, who chose to campaign in Missouri to score a symbolic victory. Perhaps that will work out for him; he’s leading in the polls. If he manages to lose, though, Missouri Republicans won’t be the only ones who look stupid.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.