WHITHER IOWA?….Over at the Washington Post today there’s an audio report from Mark Leibovich about all the Democratic candidates showing up at the Iowa State Fair. They spend their time eating corn dogs, pretending to be interested in tractors, and playing the harmonica. (Yeah, apparently Howard Dean plays the blues harmonica.)

But I’ve got a serious question for the political junkies out there. I understand why New Hampshire is so important, but what’s the deal with Iowa? It’s a caucus, not a primary, and everyone knows perfectly well that it’s just one long pander-fest to agricultural interests. So why is it that more candidates don’t simply declare that they aren’t going to play in Iowa and then spend their time elsewhere? After all, as long as their intentions are known, they won’t take any hits in the press for losing.

Does it go beyond Iowa? Is skipping Iowa a slap in the face to the entire midwest? Why don’t they all just concede Iowa to Dick Gephardt and move on?