there is a specter hanging over the process this time that stretches all the way back to August 2008:
"Let’s say you’re moving steadily toward wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination and you allow yourself to begin thinking ahead to the question of a running mate.
"Your party has a potentially devastating problem with Hispanic voters, so your thoughts naturally drift in that direction. After the contraception wars, it wouldn’t hurt to have a woman at your side. It would be nice if you could have an ambassador to the Tea Party movement to help shore up your credentials with the right. And of course, it’s always helpful to chose someone from a swing state.
"In any other year, your musings might lead you to, say, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, a former prosecutor who checks all of those boxes, has bipartisan support in her home state and enjoys shooting handguns to boot.
"But in the world after Sarah Palin and “Game Change,” the chances of Mitt Romney or anyone else choosing a first-term governor lacking a national brand name and experience are greatly diminished. However good a fit she might be on paper, Ms. Martinez probably bears too many surface similarities to Ms. Palin to get a serious look, as The New Republic and others have pointed out.
"And the fallout from the McCain campaign’s selection of Ms. Palin for the No. 2 place on the ticket will extend well beyond the chances of any individual. For any Republican who makes it onto the short list of possible vice presidential nominees, the vetting process this year promises to be as thorough and intrusive as the vetting of Ms. Palin was rushed and incomplete."
In fact, the vetting process is likely to be three-fold, and even more intense than it’s ever been thanks both to the Palin precedent, and the extent to which the Internet, social media, and 365/24/7 news coverage have become the driving force in politics this year. As soon as they decide to stop focusing on a Republican horse race that no longer exists, the media is going to start focusing on the Veepstakes, largely because there will be nothing else to cover until the conventions in late summer. They’ll be speculating about who might be on “the list” — both “the short list” and the “the long list” — and they’ll be dissecting their public records. At the same time, the campaign itself will be vetting nominees, and hopefully for their own sake, learning from the mistakes the McCain campaign made:
" 'One of the mistakes we made in the Palin process was one of assumptions,' said Steve Schmidt, one of the McCain aides who guided the process. 'We immediately made the assumption that anyone with Governor next to her name has a base level of knowledge of history and policy that in a post-Palin world it isn’t necessarily safe to assume.'
"Mr. Schmidt said this time around the nominee and his team will need to start the search and vetting much earlier and ask more probing questions intended to gauge the ability of the possible choices to think on their feet, master complex information and provide assurance they could handle the presidency if it came to that. And, he said, the nominee will face pressure to manage a much more rigorous process to prove to the media that the vetting has been thorough.
" 'What level of rigor is going to be applied to this?' Mr. Schmidt said. “Is the media going to demand, for example, to know who is running the vetting process? What is the criteria for the vetting process? How is the decision going to be made? How transparent will the process be?' "
Of course, Palin’s rather obvious lack of knowledge was only one of the problems she created for the Republican Party in 2008, as Ed Kilgore notes:
"The conventional retroactive case on Palin also errs, I think, in figuring that the only problem with her was her lack of experience and knowledge. She was also, you might have noticed, a rather polarizing figure, and that was something about her that should have been obvious to anyone familiar with her behavior in Alaska, or her rock-star status in many precincts of the Christian Right, especially the anti-choicers, who idolized her long before the rest of the country had any idea who she was. Yet these characteristics—her 'mavericky' rep back home, and her particular appeal to the very conservatives who mistrusted the guy at the top of the ticket—were precisely what attracted McCain to her in the first place. Today’s McCainiacs are, I suspect, being a bit disingenuous in suggesting Palin’s qualities completely blindsided them."
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