LAS VEGAS -- The polite praise initially showered upon Mitt Romney for having waged a good fight against President Obama has given way to a plea from some Republicans: Please stop talking.
A week after the election, as Republicans examine how to recalibrate and regain their footing, Mr. Romney's suggestion that he lost the race because of the "gifts" that Mr. Obama gave to black, Latino and young voters did not sit well with some party leaders gathered here for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana grew visibly agitated when asked about the comments that Mr. Romney made during a conference call with donors on Wednesday. Mr. Jindal said the party's future depended on expunging the mind-set that Republicans are not committed to policies that benefit "every American who wants to pursue the American dream -- period."
"If we learn one thing from this campaign, we had better learn as a party that we've got to go after every single vote," Mr. Jindal said in an interview. "We need to say that, and we need to believe that."
As Republicans lament losing the race for the White House and failing to capitalize on a chance to take control of the Senate, the party is moving forward without a clear national leader. But Republicans have a deep reservoir of strength in their roster of 30 governors, several of whom are planting seeds for a potential presidential bid.
It is far too early for a shortlist of prospective candidates in the 2016 campaign -- the election, after all, is 1,454 days away -- but the early aspirations were on display here. The hallways of the Encore, a resort on the Strip, were filled with nearly as much chatter about the next presidential race as the last one.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey held court with admirers as he took his first out-of-state trip since Hurricane Sandy eviscerated his state last month. He brushed aside questions from reporters, but his presence here underscored his eagerness to move beyond any bitterness among Republicans over his effusive praise of Mr. Obama in the days before the election.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who has emerged as a leading symbol of Republican strength after fending off a recall attempt this year, was given a prominent speaking slot here. He urged his party to adopt a new tone, saying, "There's got to be a positive reason to support Republicans."
The chairman of the governors' association, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, a state that has solidified its role as a presidential battleground, received accolades for presiding over a deep bench of Republican governors. He pointed out that Republicans now control 30 governor's offices, compared with 19 for Democrats, saying, "We are keeping score."
The rising class of Republican governors, who have always been on the same team, showed the earliest hints of rivalry as they circled one another. "Bobby!" Mr. Christie shouted as he walked into the Vivaldi Ballroom here to see Mr. Jindal. The irritation at Mr. Christie has not subsided, several party leaders said, including one who huffed: "Elephants have long memories."
In four years, the race for the White House is likely to be a wide-open and full-throated contest, with an unusually long roster of Republicans and Democrats competing for their nomination. Nearly all of the governors who are eyeing the possibility of running must first win re-election.
Not all prospective candidates have that hurdle. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, whose first term extends through 2016, is visiting Iowa on Saturday to be the marquee speaker at a birthday celebration for Gov. Terry E. Branstad.
The contours of the next presidential race are filled with far more questions than answers, including: Will Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton take a second shot at the Democratic nomination? Will Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seek the top job? Will former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida answer the call of many Republicans and return to politics?
Here in Las Vegas, the whispers of the 2016 campaign -- fanned by a contingent of reporters always in search of the next race -- were dismissed by some governors who were more eager to talk about policy than politics.
Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, who briefly explored a presidential bid in 1999, bristled when asked about the possibility of running. He told reporters: "You ever read Scripture? I'm worried about today. I'm not even worried about tomorrow."
He said Republicans needed to remake their image, declaring that "a party that has creative, imaginative ideas -- that's inclusive, that's compassionate -- has a great, great future in terms of appealing to people across the country."
But even as Republicans look forward, party leaders said they also needed to examine thoroughly what went wrong in the 2012 campaign and find ways to strengthen the nuts and bolts of their organization and broaden their appeal.
One of the bluntest assessments came from Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former governor of Mississippi, who said: "We've got to give our political organization a very serious proctology exam. We need to look everywhere."
He called for a top-to-bottom review of the get-out-the-vote operation, which he said was outmaneuvered by the organization built by the Obama campaign. He said the party "cannot be ignorant of demography," and needed to set policies that attract, not repel, Hispanic voters.
"We've got a lot of lessons to learn," Mr. Barbour said. "We don't have any reason to be pessimistic about the future. We can see our way, but we've just got to do it."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.