Just one of the many quotes you will read, in this excellent article at Mother Jones News, about how Iowa and Presidential politics is just like the groups were in high school. Where the popular groups rule and if you are not into one of the mainstream groups....you are out.
Cool Kids Rule
The term "designators" isn't nearly so broad as "the mainstream media," nor are its members drawn solely from the media. Rather, it's a far more complicated and interrelated set of people. (What job title, exactly, would you attribute to James Carville these days?) No, the designators fill a distinct niche. Earlier last year, when New York Times columnist Paul Krugman decried the increasing importance of image over substance, and quoted the observation of Newsweek's Howard Fineman that "presidential elections are high school writ large, of course," he was pretty much on the mark. Presidential elections, especially in their preliminary stages, indeed take place in a virtual realm very much like that of a high school, despite the disappearance of ashtrays from the real-life corridors long ago. The activities taking place in the cafeteria of this virtual high school may or may not correspond to the demands of life outside high school—they have surprisingly little to do with what a candidate needs to be a successful president—but they do have a stark internal reality, and to a very real degree are driven by the "cool kids," a select group on the New York/D.C. political media axis that decides where everyone else gets to sit.
You may not care about being accepted by the cool kids, but if you want to be on the cover of a magazine, or the subject of a serious article touting your chances, or if you want to be mentioned positively in serious conversations between the political professionals and the serious potential funders or bundlers, it is these people, consisting of influential media insiders (many of them barely known to the public) along with professional political operatives and big donors, who determine your eligibility. Without their approval, you can't play.
This really is an exceelent article and really spells out why I could give a crap about Iowa.