(CNN) - If the Republican Party wants to get back on track, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says GOP leaders must first restore voters' confidence in the government.
"People will forgive you for being a little left or a little right, but they won't forgive you for not taking them up instead of down," he told CNN in between appearances on his 56-city tour to promote his new book, "Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America."
Huckabee said Republicans have lost their reputation as people who believe in curtailing spending and attempting to balance the budget and have a new label: the "budget busters," who spend more than they can pay back while priding themselves on not raising taxes.
"But it's not that they do it by curbing spending, they just kick the can down the road and put the burden on our grandchildren," he said, adding that he considers it "morally wrong" to indebt future generations.
Following big losses in the 2008 elections, the former Arkansas governor is urging Republican leaders to get back to the party's core values and "govern well" if they hope to win back the trust of voters.
Those in office, he said, "have to show that they are competent to lead," whether at the governors' level or city council. That way, Republicans can point to those people as examples to justify why they should be given a chance in the future.
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"If we don't live up to our own principles, then we can hardly criticize the other party for not living up to our principles either," he said.