After John McCain clinched the nomination, several names floated among conservatives as potential VP choices to bridge the gap between McCain and the party base. Governor Mark Sanford got significant mention, as Sanford has proven himself a solid fiscal conservative in some legendary battles with the South Carolina state legislature — including members of his own party — on pork-barrel spending. Today, Sanford prevailed on an immigration enforcement package that will potentially escalate his standing as a McCain running mate:

South Carolina businesses will have to make sure their workers are in the country legally under a bill heading to the governor.

The House gave final approval to the bill on a 94-16 vote Thursday. Gov. Mark Sanford praised lawmakers for sending him a strong bill and said he is eager to sign it.

The vote ends months of political wrangling between the House and Senate. The two chambers had passed competing proposals that volleyed back and forth as lawmakers traded accusations over who was holding up progress.

Earlier this month, the state Senate appeared poised to pass immigration-enforcement legislation that would have removed a requirement for South Carolina businesses to use the federal e-Verify system when hiring employees to ensure that they had a legal right to work. Sanford told the legislature that any retreat on e-Verify would be unacceptable, signaling a veto if the bill did not retain the tough enforcement provisions that the House had passed. The Senate retreated, and South Carolina now joins a half-dozen other states in enforcing employer sanctions for hiring illegals.

Meanwhile, Sanford continues his efforts to impose fiscal discipline. He issued 69 vetoes on the upcoming budget to trim $72 million out of a $7 billion budget. The legislature will have to override each veto separately to restore funding, which seems unlikely. Sanford pointed out that the budget had increased 40% over the last four years, far outstripping the economy, and demanded more discipline on spending.

Will this raise his prospects with McCain? Under normal conditions, a hard-line advocate on immigration enforcement might not endear himself to McCain, but McCain needs some credibility on border enforcement after a rhetorical stumble last week. Adding Sanford to the ticket would go a long way towards making peace with the border-security lobby. More importantly, Sanford would make the exact kind of party leader that the GOP needs to bolster its badly-listing credibility as a party of fiscal discipline and small government. In that sense, Sanford makes a perfect partner for McCain.