The Fashion Whip is a political style column in The Huffington Post by Lauren A. Rothman and Christina Wilkie. Rothman is the founder of Styleauteur.
WASHINGTON -- Now that the Republican presidential primaries are essentially over, all that remains to be determined in the 2012 race is who Mitt Romney will tap to be his running mate.
One thing seems certain: Romney is going to play it safe. Memories of Sarah Palin winking through stylish glasses are still fresh among the party establishment, and they still sting. The vetting process began months ago for most of potential VP candidates and their families, but this past week saw public attention rise to new heights.
The women being vetted -- both as potential running mates and as the spouses of potential running mates -- are a diverse group. Some are veteran politicos, such as New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who joined Romney at campaign events on Monday in what amounted to an informal veepstakes interview. Others are newer to the political limelight, such as Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio, a mother of four whose husband, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, is on everyone's list of potential Romney running mates (despite his assurances that he won't accept).
A presidential campaign places a candidate's entire family in the media spotlight. Already, flashbulbs are pointed at potential veeps and their spouses, ready to introduce the newest class of political celebrities to the voting public.
Before this happens, however, there are three style elements that a woman has to have under control, or else she risks becoming a liability to a political ticket. For those about to step into the white-hot glare of the national political press, this is your emergency to-do list.
Avoid Shutterbug Shame: Compared to the naked eye, professional-grade digital cameras are like spectron microscopes, so be ultra-vigilant about dark/gray roots, décolletage, "headlights," VPL (visible panty line), chipped polish, "skin belts," and all other cringe-worthy tabloid fodder. You may not see the photographers coming, but if you are a political celebrity, they are always waiting in the wings.
Master "Wallpaper" Dressing: The idea here is that a "safe" political running mate should avoid making fashion headlines, even in a fabulous Valentino suit and Naughty Monkey pumps (ahem, Governor Palin). On a practical level, wallpaper dressing is basing your sartorial choices on what the people around you will be wearing, so as to blend in with your surroundings. Whether it's a county fair in Montana or a benefit dinner in Manhattan, presidential campaigns stop everywhere. If you're still a candidate for the job this summer, your photo will become even more valuable to tabloids. Lastly, always wear black to the supermarket and the airport.
Say "Adios" to Your Personal Space: 90 percent of style is how you carry yourself, and as part of a Romney-led presidential ticket, you'll need to be warmer than a prairie in July. Air-kisses won't fly. Instead, learn to give a two-handed handshake (watch Michelle Obama for pointers). For photo ops, the most natural looking pose is a shoulder-squeeze, something Vice President Joe Biden perfected during two decades in the Senate.
In the end, no one can ever be fully prepared for the rigors of a presidential campaign. But for the women in the slideshow below, Fashion Whip's style tips should be high on their to-do lists.
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HIALEAH, Fla. - OCTOBER 22: Jeanette Rubio (2L), the wife of then-Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio (2R), walks with him after voting at an early voting location on October 22, 2010 in Hialeah, Fla. Rubio was the front runner in the Florida Senate race against his opponents, Independent candidate and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla). (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MARCH 10: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) participates in a news conference with fellow senators at the U.S. Capitol March 10, 2011. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Christopher Christie, left, then a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and his wife, Mary Pat, walk into the Westfield Diner in Westfield, N.J., for a campaign stop June 1, 2009. Christie was opposed in the primary election by Republicans Steve Lonegan and state Assemblyman Rick Merkt. (AP Photo/Mike Derer)
Former congressman and White House official Rob Portman speaks to the media with his wife, Jane Portman Jan. 13, 2009, outside his home in Terrace Park, Ohio. Portman said at the time he was leaning toward running for the U.S. Senate seat held by fellow Republican George Voinovich. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Janna Ryan, wife of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), and their children in 2008.
Gov. Susana Martinez (R) says the Pledge of Allegiance before a ceremonial bill signing at Route 66 Elementary School in Edgewood, N.M., on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Martinez signed legislation allowing for grades from A to F to be assigned to New Mexico's public schools based on student performance. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice speaks at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on March 19, 2010. Rice gave a lecture entitled 'The future of Asia.' MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images
Kimberley Thune, wife of South Dakota Sen. John Thune, with their two daughters.
Mary Pawlenty, wife of former GOP presidential candidate and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty watches her husband's addresses before the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington on Feb. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)