There’s no doubt the flat GOP presidential field has created an “enthusiasm gap” among likely Republican voters. But the news isn’t all bad. Too often, primaries turn into beauty pageants, with a slate of contenders who all look roughly the same. But as more Republican contenders appear to be throwing their hat into the race – Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, even Sarah Palin – the GOP has an opportunity to engage in a real competition of ideas.

For Palin, in particular, this is where the real challenge lies. If she wants to compete in this GOP presidential marketplace, she has to put forth some solid ideas of her own. There has been endless coverage about her bus tour this week, her visit to historical sites, and her meeting with Donald Trump. Left out of the conversation, however, has been just about anything to do with public policy. Palin made a brief mention about immigration reform and the DREAM Act while visiting Ellis Island, and reports from her lunch with Trump reveal the duo touched on the economy and global competitiveness.

The Alaskan’s bigger-than-life personality isn’t all a liability. President Obama’s cult-like status in 2008 might require that Republicans find someone with a little flair.

Still, Palin has yet to demonstrate she’s done her homework. She should enter the fight, but if she wants to be a serious contender – and move beyond her celebrity status – she needs to show voters she’s taken the time to grapple with and learn the difficult issues.

The GOP pool is open, and Republicans are hoping they’ll find the perfect candidate to defeat Obama and rein in the progressive state. But the stakes are too high to even humor a candidate who doesn’t show he or she has the intellectual muscle to wrestle with the ongoing challenges that face the country both at home and abroad.