Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, joined the voices laying out a path for the future of the GOP, saying in a Saturday speech that President Barack Obama's second term presents both new challenges and opportunities for his party.
"In the president's first term, we argued against big government in theory. In his second, we will argue against it in practice," he said at a summit of conservative leaders organized by the National Review Institute, a group connected to the conservative magazine. His prepared remarks were posted online by the organization.
"Now that the president is implementing his agenda, we'll see that the benefits are far less than advertised," he added.
Ryan called on his party to exert "prudence" and "find the good in every situation - and choose the best means to achieve it."
While noting intraparty disagreements are to be expected, he urged party members to take their disagreements behind closed doors and "challenge the left, not each other."
"A healthy debate is a good and needed thing. We can deliberate in private without fighting in public," Ryan said.
His comments were not as fiery as those Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered at the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting this week. Jindal blasted the GOP for "being the stupid party" and said Republicans must stop "insulting the intelligence of voters" to win future elections and partisan battles.
Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas echoed Jindal's themes in his speech at the NRI forum, which he appeared to deliver without notes.
"I'm going to suggest two words that every Republican should have tattooed on their arm to read in every speech: growth and opportunity," he said.
Later he invoked a phrase unsuccessful GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney used to describe a bloc of voters who would not support Republican candidates. "If you could sum up went wrong last election, I think it comes down to two words, '47 percent.' By that I don't mean that ill-fitted comment," Cruz said, describing Romney as a "decent man" who had a "slip of the tongue."
Republicans, Cruz said, "are and should be the party of the 47%" by pursuing policies to better the economic circumstances for that 47%.
As the opposition party but with control of the House of Representatives - which Cruz called the "last bastion standing between us and oblivion" - the GOP should "use leverage points to make real progress on the fiscal and economic crisis facing this country."
"We can stop bad things," he said. "Stopping bad things is significant."
Cruz, Jindal and Ryan are considered likely 2016 presidential candidates. Other prominent GOP voices to speak at the event include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell; former Sen. Jim DeMint, who resigned this year to lead the conservative Heritage foundation; and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who currently serves as the state's attorney general.
Ryan's prescription for Obama's second term: "mitigate bad policy" and "advance good policy wherever we can."
"We will explain how our vision differs, how it rests on vibrant communities, how it increases social mobility," he said.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said he will pursue "reforms to protect and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid" as well as look at tax reform.
But with Republicans being limited in their Washington influence, Ryan allowed they should look around the country as "the front lines of reform are the states."
Republicans hold an advantage in statehouses with 30 out of 50 governorships.
Ryan, who stood alongside Romney in the run for the White House, said he was "disappointed" at the outcome of the election.
"I was looking forward to taking on the big challenges," he said. "My kids were looking forward to having a pool."