Quin: I'm baffled by your post. The Iowa caucuses kick off the campaign. They require an organization that can get people to the polls. Ames is a test-run of campaigns' Iowa organization, which is why candidates make an effort to compete. And it matters a lot to both the Iowa GOP and to Iowa voters, which is why Huckabee has gotten a bit of a bump in the Iowa polls (a bump that one poll shows spilling over into New Hampshire.)
Texas is nothing like that. It's not a caucus state, so the organizational dynamics are different; the primary is in March, so it isn't key to momentum. No one cares about the Texas straw poll (any more than they do about than they do about the Illinois Straw Poll), which has a turnout a fraction the size of Iowa's (1,300 vs. 14,300). None of the major candidates turned out; Hunter basically won because he and Ron Paul were the only candidates, besides guys too marginal to even make it in the television debates, who bothered to show up.
If you think Iowa's outsized influence on the presidential process is unhealthy, you'll get no argument from me. But the problem isn't "pack mentalities and conventional wisdom," it's the primary schedule.
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