Of the business leaders who rose to prominence during Romney's era, is Romney the only one with realistic presidential aspirations?

Parker: You can look at a book like Jeff Madrick's Age of Greed and you say to yourself 'Who would that be?' Would it be Mike Milken? Would it be Henry Kravis? Who on that list of successful businesspeople who's adept at the leveraged buyout would be appropriate? None of them are builders in the classic sense of John D. Rockefeller or Henry Ford building from scratch. They've all used finance, which is the great characteristic of the last 30 years, to make these great killings.

I really am hard-pressed to say who in that pantheon one would choose. I think there would be a sentimental favor for Warren Buffett, but he shows absolutely no interest in holding public office. Steve Jobs? I don't think so. Governor of California, yeah, but ...

How would a rival debate the merits of Romney's business success in the context of its potential to help the American public?

Parker: I think the question to ask someone like Romney isn't how much money you've made, but how many new jobs, net, did your companies create? And see if he can answer the question.

Unless you think that the construction of villas in Aspen or Vail create high-wage construction jobs -- which is one way to look at it -- the problem is that the strongest argument for the business community is that it creates jobs. Decently paid jobs with tenure and benefits. That hasn't been characteristic of these kinds of operators over the last 30 years.

I suspect that Democratic candidates' opposition research has already lined up a lot of the answers to that question. I'd bet the DNC already knows how many jobs were created by Bain & Co. over the last 20 years.

Considering the rise of the tea party's platform and libertarian ideals during the past few years, is Romney still an ideal fit for the Republican nomination?

Parker: In some way, he's probably positioned well for making the race in the Republican Party as these other folks self-destruct and withdraw. With Sarah Palin as another choice, I'd assume that a lot of the party elders are going to pull behind someone like Romney or Jon Huntsman to save them from ignominy.

Certainly the tea party is not sympathetic to Romney, but when the Republicans have to figure out who is electable vs. who appeals to their conservative wing, Romney is in better shape. I think the Rand Paul/Sarah Palin/Western libertarian crowd is just not going to make it to a majority win in 2012.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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