Crist remains popular, but not more so than his predecessor, Jeb Bush, 55. Bush, however, seems determined to take a sabbatical from politics. And it might seem tribal to have a Bush on the national ballot for a seventh time in eight elections.
Three two-term governors might help McCain, including Mississippi's Haley Barbour, 60. He has two things McCain lacks -- impeccable conservative credentials and a genial disposition. He was conspicuously competent in Katrina's aftermath. As a political director in the Reagan White House, and as national party chairman, 1993-1997, when Republicans ended 40 years of Democratic control of the House of Representatives, Barbour demonstrated political subtlety and an agreeable absence of righteousness, qualities McCain as president would need close at hand. Unfortunately, Barbour also was a lobbyist for a while, and the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances" is another part of the First Amendment that the co-author of McCain-Feingold finds unimpressive.
South Carolina's Gov. Mark Sanford, 47, is more of a maverick than McCain, and Sanford faults his state party for being insufficiently conservative. His frugality has had him at daggers drawn with the state Legislature, which Republicans control. His populism is an acquired taste -- he should not have lugged those two live pigs into the Legislature to express his disapproval of pork -- but he favors expanding school choice, eliminating the state income tax and, at the national level, reforming entitlement.
Finally, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, 47, is national co-chairman of McCain's campaign. His is the only state (10 electoral votes) to go Democratic in the last eight presidential elections. The candidate who wins a majority of the electoral votes in the Mississippi Valley usually wins the White House. Pawlenty is a center-right politician in a center-right country, and the Minnesota Twins will open a new ballpark in 2010 because he helped to provide public funds, a practice that red-blooded Americans deplore in principle but enjoy in practice.
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