On Thursday, the Iowa State Fair—11 glorious days of "butter cow" idolatry and cholesterol baiting—kicks off, melding the state's two great passions: home-grown industry and presidential politics.
In addition to its agricultural displays and farm shows, the state fair will feature a roster of presidential hopefuls, most of whom will participate in The Des Moines Register's Soapbox speakers series that goes through next week.
But the forecast is already a little cloudy for the event: The fair takes place amidst a growing concern that the Iowa presidential caucuses, set for Feb. 1, are in decline and that state's cache might go along with it. Although caucus doomsayers have made similar prognostications, there is reason to believe that the wane is real this time.
Last month, in a truly concessionary move, the state Republican Party decided to end the Iowa straw poll, after a number of the candidates opted not to participate. Matt Strawn, the former Iowa GOP chair, told the Register that the machinations of his national party had effectively "chipp(ed) away at Iowans' role in the process."
It's not just Hawkeye State politicos who are grappling with the potential change to their accustomed status: There's an entire political-industrial complex that has, since 1972, oriented itself around the quadrennial political horse race.