Certainly businessmen have tried to win the presidency. Ross Perot ran on his business experience and won 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992. Wall Streeter Wendell Willkie made a strong run against Roosevelt in 1940. But it's safe to say that running as a businessman has not been a sure-fire route to the White House.
"Business skill and political skill are qualitatively different," says Steven Hayward, author of the two-volume biography "The Age of Reagan." "They do not transfer well into the other domain."
On the stump, Romney has stressed h is business past more than his governing experience, in part because many in the Republican base don't like what he did in Massachusetts. They don't like Romneycare, they don't like the strongly pro-choice platform he ran on for governor in 2002, and they don't like his handling of issues involving gay marriage, global warming and guns.
If Romney makes it through the Republican nomination process, he will likely be able to talk about his Massachusetts experience a bit more in a general election campaign. But even if that happens, he has already established himself as the businessman candidate.
Rival Newt Gingrich has argued that his own government experience is more valuable than Romney's time in business. "With all due respect to Gov. Romney, there is an enormous difference in our understanding of both how to move the nation and how to actually get things done in Washington," Gingrich told a Florida crowd in late January. "We need someone who knows enough about Washington to know how to change Washington."
Gingrich has struggled in the campaign, but of all the things voters might hold against him, having spent a career in government doesn't seem to be one of them. Still, given today's economic worries, plus anti-Washington sentiment in the electorate, Romney is hoping this might be the moment for a businessman candidate. That hasn't happened in a long, long time.
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