Losing is never good for your party's image, but Mitt Romney may have left the GOP in a particularly bad position by reinforcing the party's most unappealing characteristic. As a son of privilege worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Romney would have to have labored hard to convince voters he wouldn't just be a representative of his class, perhaps in the way George W. Bush did 12 years before (though buying a ranch, putting on a cowboy hat, and clearing brush might not have worked as well for Romney). Instead, he did just the opposite, again and again drawing attention to the fact that he was a rich guy representing a party of rich guys ("Corporations are people, my friends," "47 percent"). Combine that with the current argument over upper-income tax cuts, and Republicans are going to have a particularly difficult time in the near future convincing voters they have their interests at heart.
Not that this is a new problem. As John Sides explains, "Party images do not change quickly or easily. They reflect the accretion of political agendas and actions—big and small, symbolic and substantive." Nevertheless, over the years the GOP has successfully widened its electoral appeal to include some lower- and middle-class voters, but those are almost entirely white voters, and mostly in the South and lower Midwest (contrary to popular belief, Barack Obama performed perfectly well with white voters everywhere but in the South). They did it with a combination of racial and cultural appeals, some of which were more defensible than others. But their problem is that there just aren't enough voters who respond to those appeals about snooty coastal latte-sippers and parasitic welfare recipients to make a majority. Some thoughtful Republicans are trying to grapple with this issue, but the fact is that Republicans are always going to struggle with their image as the party of, by, and for the wealthy.
The reason that won't change is pretty simple: That's who they are.