I never thought I would say this but if McCain had to be defeated in 2008, I would now have preferred Hiliary Clinton rather than Obama as the victor. I think she was to the right of Obama (comparing their votes as US senators, and Obama's views when he was in the state legislature), but, back then, I preferred Obama to Clinton as the democratic nominee as Clinton seemed so shallow and easy to bend the truth (eg. she dodged live fire when visiting Afghanistan) but now Obama appears such a weak personality and Clinton is more gutsy.
I think you're right about GOP alternatives Mmarsh. Rubio of Florida could be the Latinos' Obama in 2012, maybe.