WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Ryan, fresh off the campaign trail as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee, delivered a speech Tuesday evening distancing himself from the”47 percent” and “gifts” comments that came to define his former running mate and laying out a vision of a more compassionate Republican Party — one that not only promotes economic and social opportunity, but also helps those who are struggling.
The speech, delivered at the Jack Kemp Foundation’s Leadership Award dinner, was Ryan’s first foray into the 2016 presidential contest. In it, Ryan staked his claim to a vision for the future of a party that, coming off a disappointing election, has by many accounts lost its way.
Ryan was there to introduce one of his potential 2016 rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio, who received the leadership award on Tuesday. (RELATED: Rubio shatters fundraising records at Iowa governor’s birthday event)
The award went to Ryan in 2011, its inaugural year — a fact not lost on the Wisconsin representative, who joked to Rubio at the start of his remarks, “You’re joining an elite group of past recipients – so far, it’s just me and you. I’ll see you at the reunion dinner – table for two. Know any good diners in Iowa or New Hampshire?”
In his speech, Ryan spoke about what he thinks the Republican Party ought to look like in 2016 in order to avoid a repeat of the 2012 elections.
“The election didn’t go our way, and the Republican Party can’t make excuses,” Ryan said. “We can’t spend the next four years on the sidelines. Instead, we must find new ways to apply our timeless principles to the challenges of today.”
“As it stands, our party excels at representing the aspirations of our nation’s risk-takers,” he added. “We celebrate that part of the American dream that involves finding your passion and making a living from it. But there is another part of the American creed: When our neighbors are struggling, we look out for one another. We do that best through our families and communities – and our party must stand for making them stronger.”
The GOP, Ryan said, needs to work on better articulating its ideology.
“We have a compassionate vision based on ideas that work,” he said, “but sometimes we don’t do a good job of laying out that vision. We need to do better.”
Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, which suggested to some that the GOP does not care much for those who are struggling, was a notable example of poor communication by Republicans during the election season. (RELATED: GOP tries to move on after Senate candidate appears to suggest rape pregnancies are God’s will)
Ryan was careful not to come across as attacking the man who was, until four weeks ago, his running mate.
“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.
However, Ryan proceeded to completely disavow Romney’s remarks.