And Iowa does matter-- a lot.
Iowa mostly matters in the presidential race by weeding out the pretenders. Any state that went first would have this effect but Iowa is different in some ways than others would be. We do take it seriously (not that others don't) and a candidate needs to show up and have a lot of face time to do well. Just a name won't win much support. Also, as a caucus state, the organized core of a party has a lot of clout. The type of people who support Palin or supported Huckabee can get a bigger percentage of the folks at the caucus sites than they could to the polls. It will be very interesting (and a possibly little sickening) to see how it all plays out.