These activists—including tea-party activists but also some mainline Republicans—say the party should adopt a more populist tone, one that places more emphasis on ways Republican policies would help the middle class…

The critique from these Republicans suggests that the party should change some policies—such as adopting a more skeptical posture toward big banks—as well as the way it talks about economic issues. It comes as others in the party argue that the GOP should be wary of seeing the 2012 election results as pointing to the need for big shifts in policy or tone.

Mr. Romney’s main rivals for the GOP nomination voiced similar anti-elitist themes, often in ways that gave them only momentary boosts. Texas Gov. Rick Perry blasted what he called Mr. Romney’s record of “vulture capitalism” and “the Wall Street mentality” that he said put profits above ethics. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked “crony capitalism” and supported breaking up big banks. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum cast himself as an advocate of the working class. portraying Mr. Romney as an elitist…

Former Mississippi governor and ex-party chairman Haley Barbour asserts that GOP policies aren’t the problem. “We do very well when our policies for economic growth and job creation are put in place,” he said. “But we often don’t talk about those policies in ways that the middle class and working class see as in their interest.”