Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 | 6:06 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, two potential 2016 presidential candidates, laid out policy prescriptions for their Republican Party on Tuesday night, nudging a party still reeling from Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama to reach out to a broader audience.
Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in November's election and chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, told his audience that their party cannot write off large swaths of Americans — a subtle reminder of Mitt Romney's remarks criticizing 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes. And he made clear that he would be making poverty in America a central part of his political message as he weighs a presidential campaign of his own.
"You know, both parties tend to divide Americans into our voters and their voters. Let's be really clear: Republicans must steer very clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and the anxieties of every American," Ryan said at a dinner to honor his former boss, Jack Kemp, who also was a failed GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996.
Rubio, too, was set to outline his views for the party going forward during a later set of remarks.
The 2016 presidential race was an undercurrent to the evening. As he began his remarks, Ryan joked that he and Rubio soon would be sharing meals.
"Know any good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa?" Ryan asked the room to laughter before delivering a speech on ending poverty. "I'm sure the press won't read too much into that one."
New Hampshire and Iowa are lead-off states in the nominating process; Rubio already has made a trip to Iowa since Election Day.
Ryan's remarks on poverty closely resembled a speech he gave in Cleveland during the campaign's final weeks. Ryan had hoped to use that speech to reset a flailing Romney-Ryan campaign, perhaps blunt the criticism of Romney's "47 percent" remarks and make an appeal to struggling Americans a cornerstone of a final push.
Romney's aides in Boston put the nix on that campaign strategy and Ryan returned to his standard speech the next day.
Ryan, now freed of Romney's handlers, was reflective at times about his 12 weeks on the ticket and offered praise to his political partner during his 20-minute speech here.
"Now Jack and I share something else in common: We both used to be the next vice president of the United States," Ryan said. "You know, although I wish this election had turned out differently, I'm proud of the campaign Mitt Romney and I ran."
But, he acknowledged, "the election, it didn't go our way, and the Republican Party can't make excuses."
He hinted the 2012 campaign was unlikely to be his last.
"Losing is part of politics, and can often prepare the way for the greatest victories," Ryan said.
First, though, he is working with Republican leaders in negotiating a way to avoid a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts that some experts predict would be disastrous to the U.S. economy.
"At a time of great consequence, the American people have again chosen divided government," Ryan said. "And it's up to us to make this divided government work. We've got to set aside partisan considerations in favor of one overriding concern" — how to work together to repair this economy.