Republicans have for quite a long time allowed the Democrats to define them as the “against” party. Grumpy old white men against stylish, urban, open minded professionals. Rich people against everyone else. Red against blue. (And red is not a conservative color. “Better dead than red,” did not mean better dead than Republican. A “red state” is North Korea not Texas.)
The GOP has been one step behind, countering the Dem zig and zag. A party on its heals. This is a way to lose.