Missouri is getting attention for the second time this Republican presidential primary season.
The Show-Me State held its first Republican presidential primary on Feb. 7, but it was, alas, all for show. It was what is known as a beauty contest -- it didn't count -- although Rick Santorum won the popular vote by 55 percent.
Instead, Missouri Republicans will vote Saturday in caucuses to select delegates to send to the state's congressional district conventions on April 21. There, Republicans will elect 24 delegates to send to the Missouri GOP State Convention, where 28 more delegates will be elected. Those 52 delegates will then go to the Republican National Convention in August.
Most of the county caucuses will take place Saturday and end on March 24. There will be no straw poll, so the results won't be announced until the state convention on June 2.
The convoluted system is the result of Missouri trying to work around rules set by the Republican National Committee. Missouri had been hoping for a binding primary early in the race, but it was not allowed to have one before March. Otherwise, it would have lost half of its delegates.
Missouri has also been angling for a primary on Super Tuesday, but that was shot down when the governor vetoed a legislation package that included the new date.
By holding a beauty contest primary in February and holding official caucuses in March, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party Jonathon Prouty said Republicans in his state can play a significant role early in the race while following national rules.
Not everyone was thrilled with the arrangement. In an editorial days before the non-binding primary, Kansas City Star reporter Steve Kraske lamented the millions of tax-payer dollars used for a contest that didn't count. Only Santorum had bothered to campaign in the state at the time and Gingrich didn't even bother to qualify for the ballot.
Missouri, we look like fools, he wrote.
It's difficult to tell how good of an idea both a non-binding primary and a caucus was until after it's all over and done with. Prouty said he won't be sure whether or not the Missouri Republican Party would try a similar procedure again until they evaluate things and see what the rules are four years from now.
He did, however, say it's been positive for Missouri so far.
We believe that Missouri has significant weight in the nomination process, he told the International Business Times. This is actually the second time Missouri has been able to make its voice heard.
And Missouri did get a decent amount of attention for that February primary. It was one of the states, along with Colorado and Minnesota, that boosted Rick Santorum with a triple-win.
Things are looking pretty good for Santorum as things probably haven't changed too dramatically in the past month-and-a-half. The New York Times' Jeff Zeleney reported that Chariton County, which held its caucuses early, voted to bind their delegates to the results of the February primary. Four were elected on behalf of Santorum.
Below is everything you need to know about following the Missouri caucus.
When to Tune in
Most counties will be holding their caucus on March 17th at around 10 a.m. CT or 11 a.m. ET. The Missouri Republican Party has posted most of their locations on their website, but they mention that they are still building the list.
Chariton County already held its caucus on Thursday. According to the New York Times, Republicans voted to send four delegates on behalf of Santorum.
St. Louis City will be holding its caucus on March 24 at 10 a.m. CT.
Because there is no straw poll, no results will be announced that day. Hopefully, reports from on scene that will give a general sense in which direction Missouri is heading.
Where to Watch Live Coverage
Because no results are being announced, there won't be live coverage of votes coming in.
Santorum and his wife will be in the state on Saturday. Local sites and stations like the St. Charles Patch, CBS St. Louis and KSDK have been covering the Mississippi caucus and will be reporting about it on Saturday.
The International Business Times will also be writing about how the day is going so be sure to check back.