(CNN) - U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan urged his party to advance a forward-looking vision in his first high-profile speech since his failed bid for the White House alongside Mitt Romney.
The Wisconsin Republican also acknowledged that that he and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who would speak at the dinner and receive an award, are seen as 2016 presidential contenders themselves.
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Related: Rubio suggests ways to bridge 'opportunity gap'
"Know any good diners in Iowa or New Hampshire?" he asked Rubio at the beginning of his remarks. "I'm sure the press won't read too much into that."
In his remarks, Rubio replied, "I will not stand by and let the people of South Carolina be ignored."
At the Jack Kemp Foundation's award dinner, Ryan encouraged his party to find a "vision for bringing opportunity into every life - one that promotes strong families, secure livelihoods and an equal chance for every American to fulfill their highest aspirations for themselves and their children." That vision, he said, includes roles for government, private groups and free enterprise.
As he did in post-election interviews with local television stations, the former vice presidential candidate stood by the race he and Romney ran.
"Though I wish this election had turned out differently, I'm proud of the campaign Mitt Romney and I ran. He would have been a great president, and it would have been an honor to serve this country at his side," Ryan said.
"We gave this race our all, and I'm grateful for the nomination. It's thrilling when your team trusts you with the ball, and it's humbling when you advance the ball as far as you can, only to come up a little short."
He noted that President Barack Obama was returning to the White House facing "a stagnant economy and a fiscal mess." Obama has said he inherited some economic problems from his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and Ryan joked, "You might even say he'll inherit these problems."
Pointing to the Republicans' retention of their majority in the U.S. House, where he was re-elected, Ryan called on his party not to "spend the next four years on the sidelines."
But he also could be seen as distancing himself from some of Romney's controversial comments, in particular, that Obama had won by offering "gifts" to certain groups, and that 47% of voters were predisposed to vote against his candidacy. Both comments, made in private conversations with donors, drew criticism.
"Both parties tend to divide Americans into 'our voters' and 'their voters,' " Ryan said. "But Republicans must steer far clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American. I believe we can turn the engines of upward mobility back on, so that no one is left out from the promise of America. But it's going to require a bold departure from the approach that government has taken for the last five decades."
Ryan received the foundation's leadership award last year, and Rubio is the 2012 recipient. The award honors the late conservative congressman, cabinet secretary and GOP vice presidential nominee.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Oct/2012 was still raw,Romney/Ryan campaign heavily around the nation lied about the President cut 760 million from medicare. It's so ironic, less than 2 months, what the GOPs offer is to cut the social security & medicare, suffering from dementia syndrome, Republicans/Tea Party supporters?
Paul Ryan is one the reckless politicians in the American history, he doesn't blind his big innocent doggie eyes while he' s lying. He's never delivered any substantial policies but lies and protect his rich donors. He's not a joke, he's dangerous!
We weren't interested in Ryan in 2012. I doubt it will change in 2016.
That taliban like platform should work well again in 2016. can they take away the womans vote by then?
Its too bad. If anyone could fix this economy its Paul Ryan. Yet the American people thought Joe Biden, the man who recently congratulated a rapist on winning a seat in the senate despite the fact that the man withdrew several months ago, was a more fitting leader.
Dense much?? We don't want to listen to you Paul. Jesus give it up already.
Ancient Texan wrote:
If the next two years are as great as the last four of Obama's reign, then 2014 and 2016 will be like 2010 elections..GOP control
Dream on. All of the above "GOP control" was supposed to have occured in 2012.
Run, Paul, run. Hillary and Bill will rip you and your selfish, pro-rich (like you and your family) ideas in to tiny, tiny little pieces so small you won't be elected to be dog catcher.
The man is a loser. He could not win his hometown, county or state. Even had to lie about his marathon time. If he is a contender in 2016, it will be the beginning of the end to the Republican party. They did their hole deeper every day.
Paul Lyin Ryan running for President is a joke where we can all have a good laugh.
he doesn't get it. he's no longer even remotely relevant or believed. the joke is, I guess, on him.
@ Wake up People.....
hope you and the rest don't judge all of us who live here in Texas by the rantings of the Ancient one. Despite being the home of Rick Perry, Tom Delay, GW Bush and Louie Gommert and Shelia Jackson Lee there are some of us in this red state that do have better and more reasonable views.
"Branding" is not the GOP's problem: it's their policies.
The fiscal cliff is happening because the GOP won't raise taxes on those making over 250k despite voters demanding it.
You know, Ryan, did it ever occur to you that the reason you lost was that you didn't really have a plan to fix the economy, just to further enrich the wealthiest 2%?
Baloney from Rubio and Ryan. Why? Because the majority of white zealot Christians in the new GOP and Tea Party nuts would be happy to see every person of color, poor or just different on social issues self deport so they can take back "their" country from the "others". That is what has to change!
Can anyone tell me what either one of these oh so carefully packaged bozos has done that makes them in any way Presidential material? The shallow GOP thinks that all it takes to sew up the Hispanic vote is to suck up to a Latino. Ryan was such a boon to the Romney campaign that they want to try it again? Don't look for either one of these guys to make a single move in the next 4 years that hasn't been carefully choreographed by the slickest spin doctors in the stable.
If the GOP does not drop their conservative SOCIAL agenda, they will continue to lose... making Ryan the face of the party is the LAST thing they should do... Time to evolve, and deal with the fact that although many Americans support fiscal responsibility and smaller govt, they will NOT trade of personal liberty for those policies.
The Republican Party leadership needs to stop holding America hostage... get out of the bedroom, focus on fiscal conservatism and smaller govt, and you will win. Continue to do what you are doing (or move further to the Right socially) and continue to LOSE. It's not rocket science...
Why is Rubio, a Senator from Florida, making promises to the people of South Carolina? Does he realize that the poor people of South Carolina, having DeMint as their Senator, are left without representation? Or is he already campaigning for the first GOP primary?