(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
go ahead and run...and be crushed by any Democratic contender
With this seemingly eternal election cycle for both the White House and Congress, they are not worried about their jobs representing us as much as they are worried about keeping their jobs or seeking other jobs. When you add to this the private donation entities sanctioned by the Supreme Court, citizens are coming up on the short end of our democracy.
Well if Ryan is as accurate with his plans as he was with his marathon times he'll start running for 2016 in 2018.
Ly'in Ryan all the way!
No member of the House has won the presidency since Garfield: the national exposure Ryan got shone a light on a man who has used an advocate of greed as a virtue for the moral basis for his budgets. Ryan, even though he is likeable and charming, will never get to the White House except as a guest.
Paul Ryan for president?? That's a joke indeed!!
We're used to a progressive, brilliant, compassionate leader – President Obama!! He raised the bar.
Spoiled brat from a congressional district that went for Obama. Delusional and arrogant. What does he have to offer anyone but the right wing fringe? They lost an election that by all historical standards they should have won, and he likely played a big part in that loss. Can you imagine this guy thinking he could stand up against someone like Hillary Clinton? Lightweight ideologue. Give us all a break and stay home.
This airhead apparently didn't get enough in this last election. He will continue his attempt to cram antiquated ideology down the throats of Americans.
Go ahead, Republicans – run a guy for President who couldn't even carry his home town.
Hey, look,there's a Whig!
I think it's pretty clear this creepy little weirdo Paul Ryan will never be president. Republicans clearly don't get it. They are completely out-of-touch with America, which is great news for Democrats in 2016.
Not many folks get to be on the presidential ticket twice and lose both times. Here's hoping Paul Ryan is one of them.
Ryan lost his own hometown in the last election. The Romney/Ryan team lost their home states of Michigan, Mass, Wisconsin and California so yes, please, run for President in 2016. You, Paul Ryan, were a big reason why your team lost. Hey, here's an even better idea: you and Palin run for President and Vice President in 2016 (doesn't matter which is which, you'll both lose either way). Please, please, please.
Please, please, please run.....it will ensure another Democratic victory.
"first speech since his FAILED bid for the White House alongside Mitt Romney. " I suppose we'll have to tolerate this the way we have to tolerate the Tootsie of the Tundra who refuses to go away
Ryan? Really? Can the Republicans please put up a SERIOUS candidate? PLEASE????
Am sorry Paul Ryan is not an intellectual like his GOP friends think he is. Now he is talking about the future (forward). If the person is an intellectual, he doesn't copy what other have announced already. He comes with something new. I am forced now to use the term: "parrot".
We have elected a man without integrity. We have elected a man who will run this country to the ground. I do not believe we will recover from Obama for many years to come.
Ryan called on his party not to ""spend the next four years on the sidelines."" – – LOL – – well, I hate to be a bearer of bad tidings there, Mr. Ryan , but I honestly hope that Mr. Boehner keeps turning down all or any proposals, as far as the fiscal ciff goes. IF that happens, Your party in Congress will end up going to the wayside, for several years to come.
Americans don't elect mere congressmen to national office. They elect governors, senators, and the occasional victorious general. The fact that the Republicans nominated Ryan, and that he accepted, demonstrates that Republicans are poor students of American history.
Here is the only reason I could ever think of to support Paul Ryan – he ain't Rand Paul. Outside of that, I can think of almost three-hundred other Republicans in the House and Senate who could do a better job than him as President.
Mr. Ryan is correct. The GOP does need to seek a bigger picture, futurist outlook. This will naturally be tough for a party so focused on living in 1890.
When I hear that Ryan wants to be President, I think of how Hitler wanted to run Germany and the world. Both have a disdain for their people, and care only about money and power.
Now that is a winning ticket.
One would hope that one small takeaway the Republicans got from losing this past election is: that lying didn't work. Look, we know politiians of all stripes are given to hyperbole, but Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan ran a virtually fact-free election. I think frankly, that hurt them- a lot.
The extreme lying (968 alone recorded by Romney) contributed to the perception that these men had no moral compass- a problem for folks seeking a leadership position for the greatest naion on Earth. It also made them look petty, and untrustworthy.
Unfortunately, they may never undo that damage to their reputations.
Rubio or Ryan for 2016? Yeah, that'll work. The token and the half pence both feeding their ego at the expense of their clearly delusional party of other societal misfits.