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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