COMMENTARY

Steve Kraske | Missouri primary debacle is costly

Updated: 2012-02-04T05:20:15Z

By STEVE KRASKE

The Kansas City Star

Missouri, we look like fools.

We have a presidential primary on Tuesday that doesn’t matter, but it’s going to cost taxpayers millions.

The candidates don’t even care — only Rick Santorum bothered to campaign in the state. And voters don’t either.

Officials forecast a turnout of fewer than one in four voters. But this could have been our time to shine and show off the best presidential bellwether in the country. What other state in the Union best represents the United States — North, South, East or West? Answer: Nobody.

The nation’s eyes would have been upon us. Our voice would have mattered. Lots of campaign money would have been spent. We could’ve been a contender, to quote the movie line. Instead, we are a giant yawn.

Rather than hosting a GOP primary that counts, we have a Tuesday primary that doesn’t and is little more than a glorified straw poll. Missouri will pick its convention delegates at sparsely attended caucus meetings March 17.

The candidates know this. That’s why they’re skipping us.

Who’s to blame for this $7 million fiasco? Lots of people.

• The Republican State Committee opted Sept. 29 to pick their delegates at those county caucuses. In effect, the GOP played it safe. It caved to pressure from the national party, which had warned that any state holding a nominating contest prior to March 1 loses half its delegates.

In essence, the Missouri GOP said that protecting the voting privileges of 26 delegates mattered more than hosting a vigorously contested — and early — big-time primary.

By Sept. 29, Missouri Republicans had a pretty good sense that Florida and South Carolina were going to defy the party line and jump the gun with January contests. Those two states didn’t worry about delegates. They sought influence.

• Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. In July, he vetoed an elections bill that moved the presidential primary from Feb. 7 to March 6. Yes, that’s late in the game, but at least we wouldn’t have wasted millions on a February primary that didn’t count.

Nixon vetoed the bill because of several provisions. One, from a Republican lawmaker, would have ended the governor’s ability to appoint a replacement if the attorney general or secretary of state stepped down.

But Republicans insisted that Nixon never communicated his concerns during the debate. Nixon disputed that, but his veto put the state in a pickle.

• The Missouri Senate and Sens. Jason Crowell and Jane Cunningham. They missed an Oct. 17 vote that would have canceled the primary after the House already passed it. A 16-16 deadlock was the result.

There you have it. Lots of goof-ups.

But who looks goofy now?

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