then they don't invest money, expand or create jobs. They hunker down to ride
it out to see what occurs. Mitt Romney understands that."
Romney provided a peek into his business thinking during a campaign stop in Lebanon County last month.
He suggested using public-private partnerships -- a staple of business-minded governors and mayors -- to help fund desperately needed improvements in the nation's transportation infrastructure.
In such partnerships, private companies operate a road, or even part of a road, handling maintenance and repairs.
'Art of persuasion'
But academics who study politics and public administration say the CEO to commander-in-chief argument is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
"I understand that it's very seductive," Kolodny said. "But businesses don't have to worry about Hurricane Katrina or invading another country. The reason you have a state is that we've all agreed there are these collective problems."
Cigler, of Penn State Harrisburg, cautioned that the appeal of a business leader in elected office is overly simplistic.
"With the public sector, you have to worry about all kinds of other factors, equity, justice, it's not just all about efficiency," she said. "If all we wanted from government were business skills and making a profit, we wouldn't have a very good society at all."
Unlike municipal and state executives, the presidency is uniquely expansive, said David Thornburgh, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government.
"The point's been made for some time that the commander in chief is really the persuader in chief," Thornburgh said.
Presidents often must cajole Congress, foreign potentates and even their own party.
"There's a higher premium on communication and the art of persuasion than the straightforward management competencies," Thornburgh said.
Even Goldsmith, the former Indianapolis mayor, vacillated on whether the managerial skills he believes were so effective for him and other big-city mayors correspond as effectively with the presidency.
"A more businesslike approach is an absolute necessity as you go up the scale from mayor to governor to president," he said. But "it translates with much greater complexity because the responsibilities, foreign and domestic, are so fraught with high stakes."
Americans have often flirted with electing manager presidents. Republican industrialist H. Ross Perot's 1992 and 1996 presidential bids drew heightened interest, but not nearly enough to propel him into the Oval Office.
Some 30 years earlier, the fortune and family ties of Standard Oil heir Nelson Rockefeller swept him into the New York governor's office. He later became Gerald Ford's vice president. But he never convinced Republicans to even nominate him in his determined 1960, 1964 and 1968 presidential bids.
'People want strong leaders'
Still, Americans have elected presidents that put some element of business at the center of their administrations -- more often adversarially.
President Theodore Roosevelt pushed greater business regulation and broke up monolithic steel and oil trusts. And Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former World War II supreme allied commander, ominously warned of the dangers of the "military
"That's a longstanding tradition in this country's political culture," said Thornburgh, the son of former Gov. and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. "It goes back to Andrew Jackson rallying against big banks and proselytizing in favor of the small farmer and the common man."
Historically, Americans elect leaders, not managers, as their president.
Whether it's Republicans such as Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan or Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, they've usually had some inspirational quality.
"In the end, people vote for executives in politics -- presidents, governors, mayors -- based on whether they're strong effective leaders, not based necessarily on whether they agree with them on every issue," said Rendell, who also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "Maybe it's because people want strong leaders regardless of what they do."
The Obama campaign has gone to great and sometimes clumsy lengths to debunk Romney's record as a corporate executive.
For several weeks, Obama and his surrogates have pelted battleground states with ads painting Romney as a job destroyer, not a job creator.
"If you took those attributes to the White House, it would be a resounding failure," said Randy Johnson, a former Pittsburgh-area factory worker whose company was shuttered under Bain's stewardship, and an omnipresent Bain critic for Obama.
Henry, head of the Lincoln Institute and a member of the Pennsylvania GOP's state committee, sees Romney's Bain background differently.
"Mitt Romney should be well positioned because he has created jobs through Bain Capital," he said. "Yeah, it's under attack by Obama because in the process of creating jobs, other jobs were destroyed. But that's the nature of a free-market economy. Sometimes you've got to eliminate 50 jobs to create 500."
--The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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