Hardly a month has passed since the end of campaign 2012, but last night campaign 2016 seemed almost in sight.
Two leading lights of the Republican Party -- Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman and former vice presidential nominee, and Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator who was a frequent presence on the campaign trail with Mitt Romney this year -- unveiled post-election messages, perhaps with an eye toward their future political ambitions.
In his first major speech since the Nov. 6 election, Ryan appeared to distance himself from Romney's controversial "47 percent" remarks and his post-election assessment that President Obama managed to win by offering "gifts" to certain groups, particularly minorities.
"Both parties tend to divide Americans into 'our voters' and 'their voters,'" Ryan said at a dinner sponsored by the Jack Kemp Foundation in Washington, DC. "Republicans must steer far clear of that trap." He added that Kemp, a former cabinet secretary, member of Congress and the 1996 GOP vice presidential nominee, "hated the idea that any part of America could be written off."
Rubio, who notably did not mention Romney once in his speech, expressed a similar sentiment. "Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government," Rubio said. "But I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had a chance. A real chance to earn a good living, and provide even better opportunities for their children.
In fact, both lawmakers, who have already drawn attention as likely Republican contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, delivered many lines that would be hard to imagine ever coming out of Romney's mouth.
Both men sought to demonstrate an awareness of the changing demographics of the electorate -- one of the most painful lessons the GOP learned on Nov. 6.
"In the kitchens of our hotels. In the landscaping crews that work in our neighborhoods. In the late night janitorial shifts that clean our offices. There you will find the dreams America was built on. There you will find the promise of tomorrow," Rubio said near the end of his remarks.
But if either of them seek the Republican nomination -- and win -- they are likely to face one of several formidable Democratic opponents. Notably, their speeches coincided with a new ABC News-Washington Post poll showing that 57 percent of Americans said they'd support a run by Hillary Clinton to succeed President Obama compared to 37 percent who are opposed.
An although Clinton, the outgoing Secretary of State, is one of a handful of top Democrats who might jump into the 2016 race, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter points out that she would be well-positioned. Today's poll found that Clinton enjoys her highest strongly-favorable ratings (35 percent) and nearly her lowest strongly-unfavorable ratings (14 percent) in any ABC News-Washington Post poll.. ABC's Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.
RUBIO AND RYAN ON THE FISCAL CLIFF. In their speeches at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner last night at Washington, DC's Mayflower Hotel, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan made only passing references to the fight brewing in the nation's Capitol over how to handle how the impending fiscal cliff, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports. Rubio cited his opposition to President Obama's desire to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans while Ryan stressed that a debt crisis is coming unless action is taken soon. "Our complicated and uncertain tax code is also hindering the creation of middle class jobs. You can't open or grow a business if your taxes are too high or too uncertain. And that's why I personally oppose the President's plan to raise taxes," Rubio said. "This isn't about a pledge. It isn't about protecting millionaires and billionaires. For me, it's about the fact that the tax increases he wants would fail to make even a small dent in the debt but it would hurt middle class businesses and the people who work for them." And Ryan issued the following warning: "Look at the road we're on - with trillion-dollar deficits every year. Even worse is the prospect of a debt crisis - which will come unless we do something very soon. When government's finances collapse, it's the most vulnerable that are the first victims, as we're seeing right now in Europe."
More highlights from Rubio and Ryan's speeches HERE