DES MOINES, Iowa — Forget Twitter and Instagram and the world of social media. The center of the political universe for the next week is the no-tech world of gently interrupting voters eating deep-fried mac and cheese and praising the butter sculptures.

This is the Iowa State Fair, 161st edition, where folks are more interested in lining up to see the life-size butter cow and the new butter-crafted Monopoly board – really – and strolling down Grand Avenue eating anything deep-fried.

The politicians are here, giving short speeches on a soapbox surrounded by haystacks, trying their hand at cooking ribs, acting for all the world like one of the gang.

The Iowans have the honor of kicking off the presidential primary season next year when they hold their caucuses on Feb. 1. So right now, they matter most. That means even in wired 2015 America, the next president has to campaign like it’s 1915.

Democrats gathered for a “Wing Ding” Friday night in Clear Lake. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont seeking the Democratic nod, will hold a rally in Boone Saturday morning before heading to the fair.

What 2016 contenders will find are young families, retirees and everyone in between more interested in tilt-a-whirls, cattle and doughnuts than the national debt.

Few people are interested in talking hardball politics, and fewer still have made up their minds. Candidates are intruders, interrupting fairgoers at play, so the politicians have to be careful. Show you’re human, but don’t push too hard.

Lars Sivesind and his brother Landon were more interested in grooming their Guernsey cow. Lars shrugged when asked his opinion of candidates. “No one stands out,” he said.

Jim Webb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, another Democrat, spoke Thursday.

O’Malley walked around, paid his respects to the butter cow, and then talked to about 150 people at the soapbox. They were his fans, and some waited as long as an hour in the broiling sun. They wanted to take the measure of the man.

“You need to have a sense that someone is in this wholeheartedly,” said Cathy Jury, a legislative assistant from West Des Moines.

On caucus night about six months from now, Iowans will visit their local community centers, libraries and firehouses, talk about their choices and vote. Chances are they may remember the fair, not for anything a candidate said, but how he or she looked and acted.

Did they have prepared quips about the butter cow or did they wing it? Did they savor the fried Milky Way bar, or take one bite and hand it to an aide?

Did they seem human? The candidate with the right spirit, and maybe the right digestive system, usually triumphs in the caucus. That’s why the fair matters.