Meet the Palinettes, a new generation of clever conservative women who are emerging as some of their party’s most effective critics of Democratic rule. Like Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who has become a conservative icon, they combine shrewd political instincts with eye-catching personal histories.

Unlike Palin, most of them are carving out a moderate political path that Republican officials hope will help the party to compete for the middle-of-the-road voters whom it lost in droves to Obama last year…

The rise of the Palinettes is at least partly a result of the doors kicked down by Palin when she burst to Republican prominence last year. Whatever anyone thought of her political views and experience, her appeal as a mother and wife exhilarated the Republican base and helped to dilute the party’s image as a refuge for angry old white men.