All-Star Panel: GOP frontrunners for next election cycle

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 5, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. PAUL RYAN, R – WIS.: As you may know, Marco is joining an elite group of past recipients for this award.


RYAN: Two of us so far. I'll see you at the reunion dinner, table for two. Do you know any good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R - FL: Paul, thank you for your invitation for lunch in Iowa and New Hampshire. But I will not stand by and watch the people of South Carolina ignored.

I've heard it suggested that the problem is that the American people have changed, that too many people want things from government. But I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people, they just want what my parents had -- a chance, a real chance to earn a good living and provide even better opportunities for their children.

RYAN: When one economic policy after another has failed our working families, it's no answer to simply express compassion for them or to create more government programs that offer promise but don't perform.  Instead we must come together and advance new strategies for lifting people out of poverty.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: That was last night at the Jack Kemp Foundation award dinner, Marco Rubio accepting the second annual award. Paul Ryan had the first award. He's the Jack Kemp protege, of course. And you heard what they talked about there. We're back with the panel. It looks like these two are 2016 front runners, would you say, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I would say that is true. And if you are a small government conservative who's been sort of in the wilderness now for the better part of year, really, when you had all of these conservatives who opted not to run for president, the conservatives, the sort of movement conservatives who did run for the Republican nomination didn't do well. You lost on November 6 a month ago today. You've had to deal with a bad Republican hand on the fiscal cliff now for the better part of a month. This is something to look forward to, the fact that you have two Republicans leading the party of this stature and capability who sort of are movement conservatives in the sense that they're both intellectuals but also sort of get these issues viscerally, this is something to put you in a good mood.

BAIER: Rubio talked about the middle class. Ryan talked about lifting people out of poverty. Much different messages than we really heard on the campaign trail this past year.

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, Rubio also seemed to be sort of disagreeing with Mitt Romney's argument a little bit, this sort of 47 percent of people who just want hand-outs, kind of a thing, which he has disagreed with before. So I think that's interesting because I think it's a really kind of reprehensible message.

I also, I wonder where Jeb Bush fits in to this also. I can't speak to that since I'm not a conservative, but I think he certainly would be one of leading contenders along with these two gentlemen.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I share Steve's optimism. I do think that we are looking at the future of the party. It's a whole generational change. They are all essentially Reaganites. I think the big doctrinal disputes of the past are over between the Goldwater Republicans and the Rockefeller Republicans. If you look at this generation, just about all of whom could have run in 2012 but were just a little early. They're all now going to being coming into their own. You saw Rubio and Ryan. You've got Governors Jindal, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie as soon as he comes out of quarantine. You've got Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels on the outside, up and coming Senators Kelly Ayotte and Ted Cruz is coming in from Texas.

BAIER: Governor Susana Martinez from New Mexico.

KRAUTHAMMER: Exactly. There is really a long and inspiring list of new leaders with a lot of, I would say, ideological energy and intellectual depth.

And there is one other factor. In 2016, assuming our economy is still around, is going to mark a year where there's going to be an open seat. Since 1953 every time -- with one exception, every time one party has held the White House two terms they have been kicked out. The one exception of course is Reagan-Bush, Reagan being the most successful president in the second half of the century. So the American calendar history and tradition is you get two terms and then the other guys are coming in. So this is really a prize, and that will, in and of itself bring out, I think, the best young leaders.

BAIER: But right now it's -- and people are tired after the election of talking about elections to come, but about messaging and what you heard from those speeches, did you hear the framing of a new kind of conservative message?

HAYES: Yes. I think in a sense it's a return to an old kind of conservative message. But it's being framed in a new way. I would expect to hear the phrase "reform conservatism" quite a bit in the coming years. And the thing that sets apart many of the people that Charles mentioned, particularly these two fellows, is the fact that they came to Washington -- they ran for office to do something, to get stuff done. The Republican Party in recent years has had a lot of people who have run for office so that they could hold the office. They could sit and have the trapping of being a governor or a senator or what have you. That's not what these guys are about, and people like Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker who are at heart wonks and conservatives.

BAIER: We will have many more panels about this. Maybe we'll touch on it online as well.

That's it for this panel, but stay tuned to see what "Gangnam Style" has to do with the national debt.

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