CHICAGO – Rep. Paul Ryan told the nation's most active Republicans on Friday that criticism of President Barack Obama alone is insufficient to fuel a GOP comeback in this year's elections or in 2016.
Instead, the Wisconsin congressman told the Republican National Committee, it's time for the party to put up examples that demonstrate to the nation and previously under-represented groups in the GOP that it is the party of the future.
"We are in one of those trajectory-making moments where we will determine the kind of country we are going to be for at least a generation," Ryan said during a luncheon on the last day of the group's summer meeting.
"We need to show that we have better ideas. We need to show that we have real solutions. We need to show that we're the party of opportunity," said Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2012.
His upbeat tone and call for wholesale expansion of the Republican Party to include more low-income and racially diverse supporters come as his party struggles to coalesce around a plan to deal with the millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
Comprehensive immigration reform was a priority in the RNC's post-2012 report, commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus after presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost to Obama. A sticking point between House Republican leadership and the party's more conservative House members, immigration stymied the GOP again last week when House Republicans wrangled over how to deal with problems on the southern border.
Ryan praised his colleagues for raising concerns about the Obama administration, including the health care law, the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs. But he cautioned the audience of roughly 250 meeting this week to discuss party business that opposing Obama was not a winning strategy by itself.
"It is not enough for us to simply criticize," he said. "We must be a proposition party."
The GOP's candidate for governor in Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, told the group that he was optimistic about his party's chances – and his own – in the November elections. But Ricketts too urged Republicans to take nothing for granted, despite Obama's low approval ratings. Ricketts is ahead in polls of voters in Republican-heavy Nebraska.
"It's good to be ahead, but nothing to be complacent about," said Ricketts, the former chief operating officer of Ameritrade and part owner of the Chicago Cubs.