Which Republican presidential candidate elicits the most fear within the left-of-center political establishment?

Certainly not Mitt Romney, as evidenced by the latest column from TIME’s Joe Klein, a frequent water carrier for the Obama administration.

While offering Romney advice for his nomination battle with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Klein heaps upon the former Massachusetts governor the type of praise he never would get as GOP nominee.

Romney is a much better candidate now than he was in 2008. He is more disciplined, focusing on his history as a can-do businessman and President Obama’s record as a can’t-do jobs creator. Even Romney’s gaffe of the summer–the huffy insistence that “corporations are people,” in response to some Iowa hecklers–actually served to reinforce this image, which is not a bad thing. The public seems more in a mood to encourage corporations to produce jobs than to punish them right now. Romney reinforced the image again in a late-August speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, criticizing the Obama Administration for plucking defense-budget reductions from the sky rather than proposing specific cuts. “There is enormous waste” in the Pentagon, he said. “Let me tell you, as a conservative businessman who has spent most of his life in the private sector, I look at that kind of inefficiency and bloat and say, ‘Let me at it.'”