Story highlights

Sen. Rand Paul made part of his speech Tuesday about Hillary Clinton

He's just one of several GOP 2016 hopefuls to weigh in on the midterms

Chris Christie stumped for governor candidates across the country

(CNN) —  

Republican victories nationwide in this Tuesday’s midterm elections gave the GOP’s possible presidential hopefuls a surge of momentum Tuesday night as they enter a period of serious consideration of their own White House bids.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who plans to huddle with close aides in Washington, D.C. next week to discuss his political future, seized the moment first by claiming the election result were not just a repudiation of President Barack Obama, but to Hillary Clinton — the likely Democratic presidential nominee – as well.

“Hillary Clinton was very active in Kentucky,” Paul told CNN’s Brianna Keilar at an event for Sen. Mitch McConnell, referring to Clinton’s multiple stops in the Bluegrass State for Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

“The interesting thing is, Ms. Grimes decided she was going to run as a Clinton Democrat,” he continued. “Well I think we soundly rejected that in Kentucky, also in Arkansas.”

(Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat with close ties to the Clintons, was defeated in Arkansas Tuesday night by Republican Tom Cotton.)

Paul has been hounding Clinton and her record as Secretary of State for much of the past year. But with the midterms mostly over now, his attacks will carry more weight with 2016 now squarely in the political spotlight.

In Paul’s speech introducing McConnell earlier in the night, he also repeated an attack line he’s been saying about Clinton, hitting her on her recent comment about businesses not creating jobs.

“We say to Hillary Clinton: Yes, businesses do create jobs,” he said.

Paul lamented that it will be “two long years until we get to replace this president.”

But he warned — in a not-so-subtle way — that if the President vetoes Republican bills, “then in 2016 the people will rise up and reclaim our heritage and elect a lover of liberty who will restore the values of our founding fathers.”

When Paul spoke at McConnell’s election night party in Louisville, his official Twitter account even reposted a message from a follower about how supporters shouted to him to run for president. The errant — but revealing – tweet was deleted three seconds later.

While Paul was by far the most brazen about tying the election to Clinton, others expressed optimism about the party’s future — and their place in it.

In Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz, another Republican facing similar calls to run in 2016, used the GOP victory to solidify his place as an uncompromising conservative who appeals to the party base by calling for more votes to repeal the President’s health care law.

In effort to set himself apart in a way that could promise more trouble ahead between him and other Republicans, Cruz even refused to say if he would support McConnell as Senate Majority Leader.

“That will be a decision for the conference to make,” Cruz told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Cruz declined to answer further questions about whether he would vote to support McConnell or not.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who also spent Election Night in Texas, expressed a completely different message about the aftermath of the evening’s results. Bush emphasized governing — which would require Republicans to work with Democrats, given that the party won’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and Obama’s continued presence in the White House.

“Republicans in Congress now have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to demonstrate to American voters that our party can effectively govern,” Bush said in a statement. “That requires pursuing and passing a serious growth agenda for our nation that expands opportunity for all Americans.”

New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the head of the Republican Governors Association who barnstormed states in the weekend before election day, delivered statements of congratulations for the GOP governors who won Tuesday night.

Democrats, meanwhile, remained mostly silent Tuesday night in the face of a wave of party losses. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden and outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, all Democrats considering White House runs, did not release statements on Election Night.

Regardless, these possible White House contenders spent the past several months campaigning and fundraising for candidates across the country, an investment that will help encourage those they helped to support them if they choose to run next year. (Clinton, for example, spoke at 45 events for Democrats, and Christie visited 15 states for Republicans in just the past five days. Others kept similarly ambitious schedules.)

While those trips could be portrayed before the elections as merely providing a helping hand for a tough mid-term battle, they set the foundation for the next two years and the race for the White House.

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