I love 'The Music Man' Ron. Given that it was written over 50 years ago, and set some 40 years before that, there is still a lot of truth in it. Meredith Willson may have moved away from Iowa for his career but he never left.
As for Palin and her ilk and the caucuses, whew. There is a lot to consider. The social conservative base can rally folks like no other as Huckabee showed. That didn't translate into any real weight elsewhere though. He did better later than he would have but he still didn't last that long as a serious contender. He was starting from zero though and Palin would not be.
Palin is hard to get a handle on. I am not even convinced she will run. I don't think she really wants to govern. She wants to have power but you don't need to be president to have that. If fact she already has quite a bit. She would also have to take a cut in pay. She has very little knowledge about a great many things and wears this as a badge of honor. Her fans seem to love it. How that will translate to the more mainstream Republicans has yet to be seen. If she shows herself informed enough to gain a more broad appeal she may lose some of her more rabid supporters. I don't know how that would play out.
I don't think the same-sex marriage issue will have much traction here in 2012 no matter who does or does not run. It will have been legal for over two years by then. The folks who would rally to a Palin or Huckabee will do so anyway. I expect it will be mentioned but won't materially change things. In other places it could very well bring out enough folks to alter outcomes.