By Phil Nero, special to   Published Jan 28, 2008 at 4:49 PM

Based on what we watched in the wake of Nevada-South Carolina last Saturday, John McCain vs. any Democrat is the match-up Republicans should most want to see come November -- and the one Democrats should fear most.

Because in our world of superficial politics and in-shallow but constantly raging campaign coverage, McCain sure looks more and more like the GOP's candidate most likely to succeed.

Clearly, McCain looked, acted, and sounded so very doggone presidential in his South Carolina victory speech. And with wife Cindy looking attractive yet matronly at his side, together they presented the kind of Political Combo Meal menu item fast-food and fast-poly-biz America might be likely to gobble right (and left) up.

There was McCain, the former combat veteran and prisoner of war, sounding determined, honest, avuncular, and energetic for someone who just a month earlier appeared to lack a viable candidacy pulse. Or so we were told. There was Cindy looking like George Bush the First no doubt wished Barbara looked at her age. We should give Babs a break, though. Having W for a son would age any mom well beyond her years.

But let's stay focused here on present day superficialities.

Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, the M&M boys, are not going to muster much support beyond the base they and their party enjoys. Neither has much appeal among the swing voters in our country who vote regularly but are not committed to one party or the another. These are the people who really determine election outcomes.

At best the M&Ms boys are a candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hands. Definitely not a meal of substance on which to satisfy a country's hunger for leadership and build our nation's hope. And certainly nothing like the John McCain Combo Meal with your choice of hero sauce.

As for Rudy Giuliani and his former mistress wife. In their heart of hearts, Republicans know that combo's no meal. It's more like a two-person show that ain't gonna play very far off Broadway, let alone anywhere south and west of Peoria. Until, maybe, you get to California -- and even there, not very well.

Not true when John and Cindy stand up against Hillary and Bill. John and Cindy present all kinds of reasons for the anti-Clinton coalition to stay strong and undivided in their deep desires to keep that former Prez they love to hate and his snippy wife from switching roles in the Oval Office -- not to mention which side of the bed the presidential nightstand and reading lamp are positioned.

Barack and Michelle Obama don't want to go up against Uncle John McCain and Aunt Cindy, either. Here comes the race card, so if you don't want to acknowledge it exists, stop reading to duck it now. McCain offers just enough additional appeal to white voters who might be just an itsy, teensy, weensy bit reluctant to vote for a candidate of color. Because, you know, white folks have been told over and over again that we all have an inner-racist to deal with hiding back inside us there behind our inner child.

As for John Edwards, he and his wife Elizabeth are the combo meal any honest Republican pundit, operative or candidate will tell you the GOP wants to face least. But more and more it seems like the media is writing him off so soon that his campaign might be running out of time in which to gather steam.

Edwards has supporters willing to shovel fuel into the campaign engine, but it seems their shovels have been short-shafted by the media and fitted with blades more suited for the sandbox than stoking political fires. Still, they toil on with very McCain-esque determination. That should give Edwards supporters hope enough for now.

So stay tuned polybiz fans of our fast-food nation. Uncle John and his fellow veterans may have lost the war in Vietnam, but John and Cindy McCain just might be the one-two combo the GOP needs to win the heavyweight championship fight for the White House.