The GOP has to find its way back to the political mainstream, but Mitt Romney's take on the election points it in the wrong direction.
In a conference call with his deep-pocket donors Wednesday, he said he lost because President Barack Obama gave "extraordinary financial gifts from the government" to targeted groups of voters such as blacks, Hispanics, women and young people.
If the GOP is going to remain a viable national party -- and continue to play its important role in the two-party system that serves the nation well -- then it has to shed the dismissive worldview that sees half the nation as wastrels who don't pay income taxes and refuse to take responsibility for their lives.
The lesson the party should take away from Romney's loss is that his message was rejected by an electorate which has become more diverse, more tolerant and doesn't see government as the enemy.
It isn't as though candidate Romney didn't come bearing "gifts" for interest groups, too. He promised the rich lower taxes. He promised seniors he'd restore $716 billion in Medicare spending. He promised corporations less regulation. Is that different from Obama's moves to hold down interest rates on student loans, to ensure that health insurance covers contraceptives, and to allow legal status for those brought here illegally as children?
Rather than seeing his approach and Obama's as a legitimate clash of competing views of what's best for the nation, he fell back on the incendiary makers-and-takers view of the world that imperils his party's future.
Some of the leading GOP contenders for 2016 do see it differently and sought to distance themselves from the legacy of 2012.
"I would just say to you, I don't believe that we have millions and millions of people in this country that don't want to work," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The nation is changing. The GOP has to adapt.