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Primary calendar gives Iowa the nation's proxy

/ Source: National Journal

Next year more than ever, the fate of the nation may lie in the hands of a small group of Iowa voters -- a group roughly equal to the population of Akron, Ohio. and may be finished if they don't win in Iowa. Michelle Obama suggested a loss in Iowa could mean the end of her husband's campaign. "If Barack doesn't win Iowa," she warned supporters, "it is just a dream."

So who are these folks who get to make that big decision for the rest of us? How accurately do they reflect the country?

Iowa has other idiosyncrasies. Take the price of gas: In Iowa, mid-grade gas is cheaper than regular. That's because mid-grade fuels in Iowa are ethanol blends and -- no surprise -- Iowa grows a lot of corn.

And people who live there have access to the candidates, giving them privileged proximity to the next president. The Register poll found that one in four likely caucus-goers has met a presidential candidate in person; most of America will only see the hopefuls on TV. No matter how much (or how little) Iowans have in common with the rest of us, the primary calendar has given Iowa the whole country's proxy.

NBC News/National Journal embedded reporter Carrie Dann contributed to this report.