Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has a gloomy assessment of the Republican Party. He complains its rising stars, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, have loads of charisma but little of the intellectual rigor necessary for leadership. Until the party finds someone with both qualities, Douthat argues, the GOP won't mount a serious challenge to the Democratic majority.

The conservative writer is not the first Republican to denounce the GOP's populist elements. Yet his rejection of Sarah Palin is notable in light of his previous stance. In 2008, when Palin was the party's vice presidential nominee, Douthat was "wildly stoked about the pick." But the former governor's decision to leave office before her term ended signaled a departure from "serious" leadership to "celebrity instead."

Douthat lumps Palin with Huckabee, whom he wishes had run for Senate instead of hosting a television talkshow. He expresses disappointment in both of their post-election decisions:

Nobody should begrudge them their choices... Senate races are a grind. Signing autographs for your adoring fans is more fun than rounding up budget votes in Juneau. But they were the wrong moves if either wanted to become president someday. Huckabee’s gabfest is a weekly reaffirmation of the rap that he’s too lightweight for the Oval Office. Palin has sealed her identity as a culture-war lightning rod: she can inspire hysteria from liberals (ably catalogued in Matthew Continetti’s “Persecution of Sarah Palin”) and adulation from conservatives (visible at every stop along her book tour), but she’s unlikely to persuade anyone in the middle to trust her with the reins of government.