But I'll toss in a good point that Ed Kilgore made:
You really need to dig into the details to understand Iowa, and that’s the real hold the state has over political junkies and candidates alike: the time you have to invest in the place tends to reinforce its importance.To put it in a more positive way...
The point of primaries and caucuses isn't so much to contest the nomination; it's to generate information for party actors. Well, it also technically does determine the nomination, but because large electorates generally follow opinion leaders, as long as party actors collectively come to a decision, the chances of regular voters overturning that decision are very small. If party actors collectively -- and remember, activists or insurgents or whatever you want to call them are included in my definition there -- cannot come to a collective decision, then the primaries and caucuses to wind up determining the winner. But whether that's as an independent force or whether it's ratifying the winner of internal party decisions...well, it's harder to say.
But getting back to the question of generating information: one reason that party actors nationally are satisfied with Iowa and New Hampshire first, as opposed to perhaps rotating lots of states, is that they know a lot about Iowa and New Hampshire and therefore have relatively little difficulty understanding in context the results from those states.
At any rate, Iowa isn't going anywhere, as I said over there. And those who are constantly writing Iowa's obituary...well, they make me cranky.