Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Articulating the Republican vision is an area where Ryan sees opportunity for improvement: "We have a compassionate vision based on ideas that work - but sometimes we don't do a good job of laying out that vision," he said. "We need to do better."

He urged the party to focus on what brings Americans together rather than on what divides them. "We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American. I believe we can turn the engines of upward mobility back on, so that no one is left out from the promise of America."

Rubio talked about the middle class and the role of government. "Government has a role to play. And we must make sure it does its part. But it's a supporting role: to help create the conditions that enable prosperity in our private economy. ... It is not the ever-expanding reach of government, but rather having access to the benefits of (a) thriving economy that allows the poor to rise into the middle class. Not by making rich people poorer, but by making poor people richer."

"To do that we need a limited and effective government," Rubio continued. "...Big government has never worked. The promise of more government as the answer to all our problems is easy to sell. But when it is put in practice, it fails every time. Big government has never been able to create and sustain a vibrant and stable middle class."

In addition to articulating a compelling, inclusive vision, the Republican Party has to come to grips with the reality that appearances matter. Reach out to women, Latinos and Asians and include them so that others can easily see that Republicans do more than talk about opportunity for all; they practice it.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.