Just as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) presented two versions of conservatism, Govs. Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker showed two different sorts of leadership.

Jindal, like Rand Paul, is largely theoretical. Most of his speech was a repetition in various phraseology of “America is not just the government” and “We can’t be fixated on the fiscal crisis in D.C.” It is a non-starter if you are a national candidate but not if you come from the perspective of a smallish, poor state. Great. Ignore the federal mess and don’t be worried about bookkeeping. But wait. If he desires to grow America and success outside of D.C. is to come to fruition, don’t we need to remove the threat of fiscal meltdown, don’t we need tax reform and entitlement reform? Well sure enough, later in his speech he called for “blowing up the tax code.”

So in the end, yes, D.C. matters and simply saying ignore the elephant in the room let’s talk about small business, ignores the efforts in D.C. to make it easier to operate (e.g. repeal regulation, refashion health care, etc.) And his pronouncement that we should not worry about managing the federal government is, I think, dead wrong. Republicans have to be the party that reforms, modernizes and reins in the government or the liberal welfare state will strangle the economy and bankrupt the country.

Gov. Scott Walker at CPAC (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Coming from a different direction is the governor who may be the dark horse contender in 2016 (should he run), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He gave a rousing speech about what he has accomplished and how that translates into a vibrant agenda of mobility and opportunity for other states and the country at large:

Like Rubio, Walker’s is a message of optimism and a cautionary tale about relevance. Both Rubio and Walker used portraits of ordinary Americans to show what conservatism has to offer them. While conservative students might thrill to a rousing speech about the government droning us or the desire to wish away the federal government, ultimately the GOP’s future depends on articulating how conservatism improves the lives of average Americans.

That too was Jeb Bush’s message at the dinner festivities Saturday night when he admonished the audience: “Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs, because those voters feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome in our party.”

If you want to see the future superstars of the GOP look for the positive, can-do messengers and ignore the “anti’s.” And that means laying out a positive vision of how government should promote opportunity, vibrant communities, a sound safety net and a secure world.