Still, the Indiana Republican acknowledged that House Republicans still haven’t come up with a unified position opposing pork-barrel spending.
“I believe that a conferencewide moratorium on earmarks would be in the interests of the American people and the interest of the Republican Party,” Mr. Pence said.
After unilaterally swearing off earmark requests himself in 2008, Mr. Pence announced that he would do the same again in 2009 and 2010.
“My reason for that is not because I think members of Congress should forever be foreclosed from making requests, spending requests, large and small, but because I think this system is a disservice to the American people,” he said.
Mr. Pence also took pains to distance himself from Mr. Bush’s eight years in office, touting his opposition to the “Bush banking bailout” financial rescue plan.
“Americans fired [the] big-government Republicanism of George W. Bush,” he said. “Big-government Republicanism is a failed political experiment.”
Mr. Huntsman, who was in Washington for a meeting of governors, said the failure of Republican leaders in Congress to move beyond “gratuitous partisanship” has left it to the party’s governors and other state officials to come up with “big, bold solutions and ideas” that will win over voters and revive the party.
“Until we get to that point, we are going to be sort of out there gasping for air, and that’s were we are right now,” he said.
“A good spirited debate is always important and always healthy, but right now, we are devoid of some of those big ideas that will allow us to become a governing party once again and allow us to win national elections,” Mr. Huntsman said. “As one Republican governor still standing, I’m very mindful of this and I’m very mindful of the need to be part of the larger debate about coming up with real fixes and real solutions that the American people recognize as being good for them and their state and their country.”
Instead of Republican legislators, Mr. Huntsman said, he turns to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to discuss ideas about health care, environment and energy policy.
“I had Newt Gingrich in my office a few weeks ago,” Mr. Huntsman said. “What did we talk about? We didn’t talk about how you harpoon the opposition through gratuitous rhetoric. It was health care … environment and energy reform. Real ideas.”
Mr. Pence acknowledged an appetite for leadership among voters but said Republicans are well-positioned to fill that void.
Mr. Pence has been one of the chief sponsors behind a federal shield law to protect reporters from having to reveal their sources and said he thinks the bill can be signed into law under President Obama.
“We’re feeling that there’s a more amenable environment there,” he said, predicting both 60 votes in the Senate — the threshold needed to more contentious bills — and the support of Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
On immigration, Mr. Pence said he still supports his own proposal that required illegal immigrants to leave the country and apply for a guest-worker plan from outside the U.S. He said that doing so would not preclude them from getting in line for a path to citizenship.