"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 in 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.
"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.
Huckabee boiled down the blueprint for his party's future to a three-step plan: "Clarify what the principles are that we want to govern by; get elected on those principles because we are authentic in believing them; and thirdly, when elected -- implement those principles and show the benefits."
He add, "I think when it comes to politics, the answer is 'show me the results.' "
As far as the role he'll play in reshaping the GOP, Huckabee said he doesn't have "a niche carved out." The former Baptist pastor said he intends to continue to be a voice for what he hopes is a "common-sense conservatism" through his television show on Fox News and upcoming commentaries on ABC Radio Networks.
Huckabee abandoned his 2008 presidential campaign in March, but he's shied away from saying if he has put all of his presidential aspirations to rest.
"I'm quite a few months and many prayers away from making some decision like that," he said.
His supporters, however, already are preparing for 2012. Huckabee said that people showing up for his book signings -- often hours before the events are scheduled to begin -- are telling him that he has their vote in the next presidential election. iReport.com: Hundreds attend Huckabee book signing
Supporters behind SaveforMike.com have even committed to setting aside $2.85 a day so that if Huckabee decides to run, they'll have saved up enough by the time of his announcement to contribute the maximum $2,300 to his campaign. And if not, they'll "just use the savings to splurge on something nice to lessen our disappointment," according to the group's Web site.
While he's amazed by the energy among his supporters, Huckabee said when it comes to a future presidential run, "we'll just have to wait and see."
Until decision time arrives, Huckabee is focusing on his getting his voice out, with the primary goal to "reignite the excitement that once existed in the conservative movement."
He said his hope is that in the future, people would be able to "dream the American dream and live it."
"To take an idea on their kitchen table, sketch it out on a paper napkin, and make it happen. I still want that kind of America for anybody," he said. "I want them to be able to know that the American dream is alive and well."