Iowa caucuses are still first, but are they foremost?

What’s not clear is whether this year’s campaign in Iowa is an anomaly or a look into the future. That’s part of the discussion among politically active people in the state this fall. A few weeks ago, Gov. Terry Branstad upbraided Romney for not spending enough time here. Is he worried that the absence of activity will diminish Iowa’s role in the future?

“We always worry about that,” Branstad said with a laugh. “It’s one of those things. We worry about that just like we worry about the price of corn. Right now the price of corn is real good but we always worry that it’s not going to stay there.” …

Matt Strawn, the Iowa Republican Party chairman, isn’t prepared to say whether this year’s campaign is a new normal in Iowa, but he worries about the consequences if it is. “If we get away from a process that demands candidates who want to be president of the United States actually let regular American citizens look them in the eye and ask questions, well then it’s a slippery slope toward a national primary, and in my view all a national primary is, is a fundraising contest,” he said. “So I think the process would suffer if this new normal is going toward a more nationalized campaign and primary season.”