It is hard to think of a rising star who is likely to be a good vote-getter, a solid conservative, and also good at the policy areas (at least a few of the central ones, like the economy) where McCain is weak. Which is why it has to be a governor with some talent, charisma, and regional respect. But maybe you have someone in mind?
All together now: Haley Barbour.
As in, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
Rising star? Can anyone say, "The true hero of Katrina?"
Vote-getter? Check. (As much as anyone not named Newt Gingrich, Barbour, as Party Chair, was the author of the 1994 Republican Revolution.)
Solid Conservative? Puh-lease. (Last night on Fox, speaking--as always--as if through a mouthful of hominy grits, Barbour said, "Ah'm more consurrvative thayn the three uh them," before launching into a spiel about how it would soon be time for Romney to step aside, faster'n a one-legged man in a bre'er patch, or however the hell he put it.)
Policy areas? Kind of, yeah: gun ownership, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, and the two most important economic policies to conservatives: tax cuts and cutting taxes. McCain is fine on the war; Barbour would only reinforce his strong suit.
Charisma? The man makes Fred Thompson come off as Mr. Peepers.
Regional respect? Granted, Mississippi is a state McCain would be hard-pressed to lose if he tried. But imagine Barbour in jeans and a button-down blue shirt rolled up to the sleeves, one leg up, elbow on knee, talking to folks in Westlake, Louisiana; in Jackson, Tennessee; in Frankfurt, Kentucky; in Charlottesville, Virginia and Hannibal, Missouri. In the panhandle in Florida.
All of the above states, with McCain at the top of the ticket, are in play.
Just as the Democrats cannot win without both California and New York, the GOP is lost without a solid sweep of the Confederacy. Had I thirty seconds of the Senator's time, I would say the following: "You've brought the ball into the red zone. Now give it to the big fullback.