The Romney campaign seems determined to learn from McCain's mistakes, maybe even to a fault. The process of vetting a vice presidential candidate can be political in its own right; look no further than a top Rubio advocate's pushback to BuzzFeed about the Florida senator's supposed exclusion from Romney's short list.Women in politics are subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. That doesn't make them a liability, if you choose a qualified woman.
But in leaking few details about their search, the Romney campaign also loses out on an opportunity to show they've at least made an effort to seek out various candidates whose mere consideration might be needed to placate certain corners of the party.
In particular, few women except for New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte – a freshman lawmaker from New England with only scant federal experience – are thought to be under consideration by Romney.
"I think unfortunately, Palin poisoned the well on that," said one informal Romney adviser, fretting that any woman selected as VP would draw inevitable comparisons to the former Alaska governor. "I would guess if I were inside the Romney mind that they're worried that any woman chosen will be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. "
But Mitt Romney isn't looking for someone qualified. He's looking for someone who can help him win. So he wants to be able to trade on the presumption of competence and decency reflexively afforded privileged people by the media, especially straight white cis men, i.e. everyone on his veep shortlist.
Which means he hasn't learned much of anything from John McCain at all.
In a decent country with a functional media, this would be a huge red flag and people would consider such a rank display of wanton opportunism to be a disqualification from higher office.
But here, it's just another anecdote about another terrible man who could be our president.