Put simply, the party should try to occupy the same political space the Clintons seized in 1992, and cast the Clintons in the role of the out-of-touch elitist. Bill’s appetite for the rock-star lifestyle—hobnobbing with the gilded elite in Davos rather than the diner crowd in Little Rock—facilitates this effort. So does Hillary’s presumably endless grasping for campaign contributions, which unmistakably connects her to the elite (and reviled) quarters of this country. Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein is already on board for Hillary, which tells you all you need to know. It should, in theory, be possible for the GOP to expose the hypocrisy of the Clintons’ pitch to the “forgotten middle class,” given that they seemingly have forgotten all about their own middle-class backgrounds.
That’s the theory, at any rate. In practice, success depends upon the nominee. Some candidates are well equipped to make a populist pitch to the middle class, others not. Republicans tend to nominate the latter type, whether longtime Washington insiders (Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, John McCain) or political scions (George W. Bush, Mitt Romney) or both (George H.W. Bush). The seemingly narrow caste of eligible GOP nominees has a lot to do with the party’s own addiction to special-interest money; these are, after all, the sorts of people who can raise the cash needed to run the ads to sway primary voters in Ohio and Florida.