This deserves wider attention, especially at a moment when the stupid, stupid Republican leadership has convinced itself that its real problem with the electorate is being insufficiently pro-amnesty.

“One after another, [business owners who were invited to speak] talked about the business they had built. But not a single—not a single —factory worker went out there,” Santorum told a few hundred conservative activists at an “after-hours session” of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them. You know what? They built that company too! And we should have had them on that stage.”…

“When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are ‘Type As’ who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said. “No wonder they don’t think we care about them. No wonder they don’t think we understand them. Folks, if we’re going to win, you just need to think about who you talk to in your life.”…

“Our leaders don’t accurately reflect who we are,” he said. “They reflect the interest groups around here who are lobbying for an advantage. Everyone who is up here is wanting an edge for their company or their industry. We’ve got to get away from that.”

“This makes so much sense to me,” writes Mollie Hemingway, “that I am confused as to how the GOP and Romney messed it up so badly last year.” I think I can explain that. The reason it caught on with the GOP, at least in part, is because it caught on first with grassroots ideologues like me. I thought, and do think, that O’s “you didn’t build that” line was a window onto his essential statism, an unusually blunt expression of contempt for private initiative. It’s one thing to demand higher taxes for the rich, it’s another to deny entrepreneurs, even rhetorically, the credit they deserve for having taken great risk to build wealth-generating enterprises. If you’re a true-believing libertarian-leaning capitalist, it’s Obama at his sneering liberal worst. But here’s the thing, and it’s something I’m reminded of constantly: Most voters aren’t ideologues. One of the lessons of last year’s campaign was that 99 percent of the daily “gaffes” and kerfuffles that political media, left and right, regularly wets its pants over mean next to nothing to the average joe. If you’re going to devote an entire convention to the other guy’s allegedly damning gaffe, you’d best be sure that gaffe is really, really damning in the eyes of most voters. It is to an ideologue like me and to America’s proud entrepreneurs. What about the other 80 percent of the electorate?

Santorum’s making a point here that should be prosaic among prominent Republicans by now but which, apart from occasional gestures from Eric Cantor and speeches by Bobby Jindal, remains mostly overlooked: You need to win America’s wage-earners too. Gun rights are great and border security is excellent, but expecting the masses who are earning 15 bucks an hour to rally behind a message that Obama’s too hard on their bosses is expecting a lot. It’s hard for an ideologue like me who works in political media to keep his eye on that particular ball in the middle of a campaign, when he’s at virtual war with the ideologues on the other side every day. The question is, why was it hard for Team Romney? Mitt is many things but an ideologue isn’t one of them. His guys were paid, very handsomely, to come up with a message that would win, ideological or not. Romney’s whole selling point with conservatives, in fact, was his alleged electability; the party nominated him in the full expectation that he’d move to the center for the general election, so he had nothing to fear by ignoring one of their ideological hobbyhorses. And yet somehow he and his advisors decided that going all in against “you didn’t build that” at the convention was the way to go. Why? Romney’s core political identity was that he’d say anything to win. Why did he think that making a stink about that would help him do it?

One footnote to all this. As much as I hate what Rubio’s doing with the immigration reform, I’m paradoxically reassured by the fact that he seems to realize it won’t much hurt him in 2016. Ideologues like me will hold it against him, but if your goal is getting elected president, who cares what ideologues think? We couldn’t stop either Romney or John McCain(!) from being nominated in the last two cycles and we’ll be the first ones at the polls on election day 2016 to pull the lever for the nominee, even if it’s Marco “Legalization First” Rubio. He doesn’t need to impress us, he needs to impress the non-ideological middle class. How he plans to do that by effectively amnestizing a huge new labor supply is … unclear to me, but voters do seem to think that immigration reform is pretty nifty. If he figures out a way to talk to blue-collar voters, he’ll be very viable. Amnesty or no.