Being “that guy” or “those guys” in Iowa can be exhausting, according to Yepsen. “I got overwhelmed,” he told me. “It will happen to Kathie and it will happen to Mike and O. Kay.” Yepsen also says that the caucuses, and the way they are reported on, have changed as interest has grown. “Reporters swamp in almost to the point where it gets in the way of the story. You don’t have the old days when you could just hop in the back of the car with George Herbert Walker Bush and it was just him, and a driver, and an aide and me.”

While this year’s caucuses should draw less attention than 2008, with only one party caucusing, new media outlets like Politico are already promising more primary coverage than ever. In this feverishly competitive environment, that could mean more extracurricular work for Iowa’s political press than ever—though there are reinforcements by way of popular bloggers at Iowa Independent and Iowa Republican.

Yepsen’s primary successors know what’s coming. They’ve dealt with it before. Each knows to plan a vacation ahead of time—Henderson relaxed with family in Texas following 2008, Obradovich has spent her post-election time-off in India, England, and Brussels. And each knows to steel themselves for the onslaught, and for some, to prepare for what follows: the caucus comedown.

Obradovich says she is relieved when the caucuses pass; others feel at a loss. “I feel like the Maytag repairman,” admits Goldford. For Henderson, the feeling is a mixture of exhaustion and contentment. “You sometimes hear sports figures talking about how they ‘left it all out on the field,’” she says. “It’s a sounds a little bit weird. But there is a feeling that I’ve done everything I possibly could to cover the caucuses and now it’s someone else’s football to carry it down the field.”

Or someone else’s turn to take the ice.

*Note: This story originally said Obradovich also stepped into Yepsen’s political editor role—she was actually already political editor and moved from that position into the columnist role.

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.