Romney should have waded into blue states, especially low-income and minority areas—not because he had a real chance of winning a California, New York, or Illinois, but because he could use such occasions to remind all Americans, especially independents and conservative Democrats in swing states, that his agenda was aimed at getting the underclass jobs, empowering the lower middle classes, and giving all Americans more freedom of choice. The Romney economic message should have been aimed not just at job creators but at job seekers: smaller government, he should have argued forcefully, ensures that more people will be hired in the private sector.

Republicans need not necessarily give up on candidates who are wealthy white men in their sixties in favor of candidates who may be easier to market like Marco Rubio, Susan Martinez, or Condoleezza Rice. But to the degree that they nominate men of great wealth and substance, they must be savvy about not allowing them to be caricatured as out of touch plutocrats.

In that sense, opposing blanket amnesty should not be seen as anti-Hispanic, but instead as necessary to ensure that the working American poor, especially unemployed African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, do not have their wages undercut by foreign nationals. Those who wait in line for a legal shot at the American Dream should not be discriminated against by those who cut in line ahead of them. Do we really wish for there to be a vast underclass of exploited green card holders rather than legal immigrants who come with enough skills to have a fighting chance to succeed?…

Republicans will fail if they allow Democrats to promote the myth that their present alliance of the very wealthy and the poor is somehow more populist than empowering the middle and upper-middle classes. To become the true populists in our media-driven, electronically wired culture and to counter the Democrats’ art of class warfare, Republicans must not just argue for free-market solutions that help the hard-pressed middle, but they should look and talk—if not live—like them too.