A group of prominent Senators went to visit President Abraham Lincoln to demand the replacement of General George McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, who was reluctant to fight the rebels. Lincoln inquired who the Senators would suggest to replace McClellan, pointing out that despite his inaction, McClellan an effective organizer and much loved by his soldiers. "Anybody," was their reply. "Well, anybody might do for you," Lincoln said, "but anybody won't do for me. I must have somebody."
The scrambled Republican quest for the presidential nomination reminded me of Lincoln's exchange with the Senators. There is massive unrest throughout the land driven by stubbornly high unemployment and a widespread perception that our nation is adrift. History teaches that any President who presides over an economic situation like this will be toast on Election Day.
But that assumption presumes the loyal opposition will present a credible candidate - somebody who can inspire confidence in the majority of voters, most of whom are in the political middle. As we all know only too well, political trends of recent years have tended to empower the extremes of both major parties. To win the nomination, a candidate must somehow placate his or her party's fringe elements that tend to be focused on divisive issues that do not resonate with the public at large - such as abortion, immigration, gay marriage and foreign aid. Most people today are more worried about the economy and jobs. Thus, any candidate who can win a major party's nomination faces a major challenge in the general election as he or she shifts ground to woo the middle. This requires political dexterity of an advanced order.
Romney's big win in New Hampshire where he gathered 38.8 % of the vote confirms he has that dexterity and makes a strong case why he would be the best Republican candidate for President. These big numbers with so many candidates in the race in a state that has a lot of independence makes the case that he is electable against Obama. This electability, in my judgment, reflects his other strengths.
First, he does stand to the center-right on a whole spectrum of issues, which is the center of gravity for the country. Importantly, he is a strong supporter of the private market, and its ability to increase productivity, create wealth, and jobs. He is committed to reducing the long term deficit, reining in government regulation, reforming our tax code, and taking the other measures necessary to improve business confidence and economic growth.
Second, he has a record of getting things done from his running the Olympics to creating an exceptional private equity firm, Bain Capital, and his record as governor of Massachusetts.
Third, he appears to have the poise and maturity to approach governance in a clear, decisive way that will increase the country's stability. It is time for the Republicans to close ranks behind Romney and focus on the November elections.
Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements.