Despite hints from Ann Romney, wife of likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, that her husband is considering at least one woman in his vice presidential search, it's unlikely he'll actually a tap a female for the post.
That's because the long shadow of Sarah Palin still hangs over vice presidential politics, says Jennifer Lawless, director of American University's Women and Politics Institute. John McCain's decision to share the ticket with the former Alaska governor in 2008 was widely panned after a series of missteps by Palin, a relatively inexperienced politician many criticized for not being ready for the national stage.
"Whoever Romney picks, if she's a woman, would have to first demonstrate how much better than Sarah Palin she actually is, and that's not necessarily a good use of the campaign's time," Lawless says. But she adds that it is beneficial for the Romney campaign to float the idea that women are under consideration.
"Given the rhetoric regarding the 'war on women' and the fact that the Republicans are 'out of touch,' I think it's important for both parties to talk about how they actually care about women, women's plight, and think that women can be adequate leaders," Lawless says.
Ann Romney told CBS News that she and her husband have been "looking at that" when asked about a possible woman vice presidential pick.
"I love that option as well," she said in an interview aired on Thursday. "There's a lot of people that Mitt is considering right now."
The qualities Ann said she would like to see in any selection are competency, capability, and a willingness to serve the country.
"There's lots of good people out there that fill that bill right now," she said.
Top women on the speculative veepstakes list are Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general who campaigned with Romney on Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
No matter what Romney ultimately decides to do, Lawless says he will be forced to cope with the Palin legacy.
"Mitt Romney is ultimately going to find himself between a rock and a hard place because although it is important to demonstrate that there are qualified women who should be on the short list, the onus is then going to be on him to explain why they weren't his ultimate pick and he's not going to say, 'because I don't want voters to think of Sarah Palin,'" she says. "So he's going to have to navigate a pretty fine line and ensure that if he says that the most qualified person turns out to be a man that indeed that person is more qualified than some of the women's names who are floating around."
Lawless also says Palin will be a cautionary tale in vice presidential politics for some time.
"If the Democrats have a female nominee at some point, either as president or vice president, that could erase this," she says. "We just need another well-known, nationally publicized woman in politics to erase that image. The Democrats have a better shot at doing that than the Republicans do at this point because Sarah Palin was never on their ticket."
Romney will likely make his selection public sometime before the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for late August.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.