Well, the Des Moines Registered is sounding the alarm. It seems the prospective candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination aren't coming to the Hawkeye state anywhere near as many times as the prospective 2008 candidates did by this point four years ago.
Is that a fair comparison, though? 2008 was such an historic election cycle, that it would honestly be tough to top on any front. I suspect the Republicans will have raised more money by the time Iowa rolls around in early 2012 than their 2008 counterpart managed, but that may be about it. Both nominations were truly open and competitive for the first time since 1952 and interest in the race and participation skyrocketed because of it. Wouldn't it, then, be a fairer comparison to look at the 2004 Democratic candidate visits to the state instead?
How many times had Kerry and Edwards and Dean and Gephardt visited Iowa by this point in 2001? Well, through all of 2001, there were 14 Democratic visits to the state. And while that tops the handful of visits the Des Moines Register alludes to, the difference isn't really all that pronounced. The one big difference between the two cycles (early 2004 and early 2012) is that Iowa was close in 2000 and not in 2008. Furthermore, the losing 2008 party (the Republicans) is the party with that active nomination for 2012. In other words, the GOP has got some work to do to make up ground in the Hawkeye state. That said, we're not talking about a windfall of visits in either cycle.
So what's the big deal?
There isn't one. There may be a lack of prospective Republican candidates crossing the borders into Iowa, but I don't know that it has anything to do with the evangelical influence in the Iowa caucus electorate. Let's take a look at history: Iowa may not have chosen the eventual nominee every time in the post-reform era, but it has mattered every year since 1976 with the exception of 1992. And in that year Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran for the Democratic nomination and was able shift the candidates' foci toward New Hampshire, skipping Iowa all the while. So far, I don't see any prominent Iowans lining up to seek the nomination.
If Iowa still plans to hold a caucus in 2012 and it remains first (and I have no evidence that it won't), then Republicans, with the media in tow, will make their way there by 2012.
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