IMAGINE a John McCain dream. . .
John McCain: "Where am I? Who are you people? Why am I wearing pajamas?"
Younger John McCain, maverick candidate of 2000: "Relax, this is a dream."
President Ronald Reagan: "We are your inner voices. You often praise us in speeches, but you haven't been listening to us lately. So we're making this special appearance."
President Teddy Roosevelt: "It's kind of an intervention. We want to warn you that you're in trouble, old boy."
McCain: "Trouble? But most polls are encouraging."
Maverick: "My polls looked good too - before I got Bush-whacked. And that's what the Democrats will do to you: whack you as being 'Bush's third term."'
McCain: "I won't let them define me. I've learned my lesson."
Maverick: "You have also learned some wrong lessons. After cinching the nomination, you stopped campaigning like a straight-talking reformer. Frankly, you should be more like me."
Roosevelt: "And me."
Maverick: "Let's talk about the 3R's - reform, rhetoric, running mate."
Roosevelt: "Let's start with reform. As I said back in the day: 'A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.' "
Maverick: "Too true."
Roosevelt: "Voters want reform in Washington! I'll quote myself again: 'Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.' "
McCain: "But I'm a reformer, like you!"
Reagan: "You've been in Congress so long you're seen as an insider. You need to champion bold, innovative ideas."
McCain: "But I've proposed new ideas - like promising to emulate the British 'Question Time,' when a prime minister is grilled in the House of Commons. I will go before Congress, answer their insolent questions, and mock them if they insult me."
Reagan: "That's how you will end partisan bickering?"
Roosevelt: "You'll speak softly and congressmen will carry a big stick, which they'll use on your head."
Maverick: "Since you're copying the Brits, why not propose a House of Lords? Members would have to be American royalty - celebrities who confess their addictions. Imagine their debates. C-Span would be the most popular network."
McCain: "You're very sarcastic."
Maverick: "And why not make your strict constructionist judges wear wigs, to prove they're traditionalists. But Americanize it - let them choose between a Donald Trump style and Sam Donaldson style: the Donald or the Donaldson."
McCain: "Do you have any constructive advice?"
Roosevelt: "Seriously, I like an idea from 'American Solutions' - have the government offer big money prizes for the first individual or company to invent an affordable car that gets 100 miles per gallon, or the first to develop new ways to reduce pollution or dispose of nuclear waste."
Reagan: "And fight the big-government mindset: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."
McCain: "What about the second R - rhetoric?"
Reagan: "Well, you're not a great communicator. You speak as if it's a chore. You don't sound optimistic or inspiring. And your jokes are increasingly harsh."
McCain: "I admit I'm not good with a prepared text. But Teleprompters are tricky. The words keep moving."
Roosevelt: "I often say: If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."
Reagan: "Senator, just speak from the heart. People know when you're being genuine."
McCain: "OK. And the third R? Running mate."
Roosevelt: "You need a reform-minded governor who could be a popular president. Tim Pawlenty, Charlie Crist - "
Reagan: "Or conservative executives like Chris Cox, Rob Portman - "
Maverick: "Or maybe someone surprising, like Kay Bailey Hutchison or Colin Powell - "
McCain: "What about Mitt Romney? He wasn't a real reformer as governor, but he's raising big money for me, trying to get me to pick him."
Roosevelt: "Gadzooks, that's bribery! You need campaign finance reform!"
Maverick: "Uh, that's a sore subject."
Reagan: "Does Romney have any core convictions? He didn't support me as president, but when it was opportunistic he reinvented himself as a Reaganite."
Roosevelt: "Being a conservationist, I know his species. Chameleon."
McCain: "Don't worry. I'll pick a principled, reform-minded conservative - someone like you, my friends."
Maverick: "You're finally waking up."
Todd Domke is a Boston area Republican political analyst, public relations strategist, and author.