Early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire that traditionally emphasize retail politics are starting to adhere more to national trends, top political journalists from those states said on Tuesday.
Iowa and New Hampshire, which have long required collective kiss-the-ring exercises from presidential campaigns seeking their affections, are both rewarding candidates who have not spent many pages of their calendars in the traditional presidential kingmaker states. Instead, a nationally surging candidate like Herman Cain has benefited in local polls from his performance in national ones.
"I think a lot of that is being driven by his national popularity -- the polls, his performance in the debates," Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich said of Cain's poll-topping showing in Iowa, speaking at a one-year countdown event hosted by Politico at the W Hotel Washington.
In the first-in-the-nation primary state, where Cain also has surged, the same phenomenon appears to be occurring. "Herman Cain hasn't campaigned in the state of New Hampshire basically at all," said John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union-Leader.
Given the success of Cain and Mitt Romney in Iowa despite the usual dues-paying visits, one reporter on a panel suggested the two earliest-voting states are behaving more like another state that would like to join them at the front of the nominating calendar.
"It seems like Iowa and New Hampshire are acting more like Florida," said Adam Smith, political editor of the St. Petersburg Times.
But if Cain's rise has been driven nationally, so, too, could be his fall. "If he suddenly starts taking a dive nationally, that will have an impact on Iowa caucus-goers," Obradovich said.
Still, she added, "the really conservative" caucus voters harbor their skepticism about the current media-driven storyline: "I wouldn't be surprised if there's a few out there who think that sexual harassment is an invention of the radical feminist agenda."