Finally, there is Indiana's U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, one of the most galvanizing and principled young (48) conservatives in Congress. He's only in his fourth term, but is already a hero on the right, and his experience is broadened by his former presidency of the Indiana Policy Review think tank. He is perhaps the single best speaker on the conservative scene these days, and his white hair (surrounding a very youthful face) helps make him seem perhaps more of a legislative veteran than he actually is -- and thus to be more credible, to the general public, as somebody who could step into the Oval Office in an emergency without missing a beat. The geographical drawback of being from a state that always votes for a Republican president might be overcome by virtue of his broader Midwesternness: In other words, if he is sold as a regional candidate rather than just as an Indianan, he may be of help in places like Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and maybe even Minnesota. If McCain were to choose Pence, conservatives would cheer many loud hosannas, while the rest of the country would see not at all a bomb thrower, but a thoughtful, upbeat, inspirational young leader.
Hmmm... Maybe he belongs in my top group after all. Stay tuned for my Final Five in a future column.