In an interview with daily Die Welt, Gauck said politicians needed to be braver in the way they handled difficult debates and less focused on the next election date.
“Politics is tremendously timid in the face of public conflicts – very much as if every conflict were the beginning of the end,” he said.
He called on politicians “to look beyond the next election date.”
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder took a risk when he posed the question as to how much welfare the nation could afford, Gauck said, referring to the Agenda 2010 reforms, which split Schröder's party and cost him the 2005 election.
“We need such courageous efforts again today,” Gauck said.
Gauck, 70, faces Lower Saxony premier Christian Wulff in the contest to replace Horst Köhler, who quit a week ago. As the choice of the ruling Christian Democrats-Free Democrats coalition, Wulff is the firm favourite. But the widely respected Gauck, who is the candidate being pushed by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens, has also drawn support from some on the government side.
Several prominent Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP) came out in favour of Gauck at the weekend. On Monday Hans-Ulrich Rülke, parliamentary leader for the FDP in the state of Baden-Württemberg, said that many party members appeared to favour the former East German dissident.
“If you listen to the critics from the different FDP state parties, they it looks as if not everyone will support Wulff,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt. “Wulff's election is not yet through.”
Gauck himself has been circumspect about his own chances, though he told Die Welt he would like to use the office of president to enliven the nation through the “power of words.”
“When I speak, I cannot speak like a pessimist. I can only speak as one who believes in life and people and our good political system.”
He said he wanted to exercise this ability as president to speak to people in such a way that made them aware of their own possibilities and potential.
In a separate interview Sunday night with broadcaster ZDF, Gauck said he had the feeling “that the governed and the governors have a communication breakdown, that they often are often at cross-purposes with one another or that the governed are no longer finding the address to which they want to turn.”
“I have the feeling that we are at the moment in a critical phase in our society,” he said.
He added he would “try to fix the communication breakdown a little,” regardless of whether he got the job as president.
Regarding his own reception as a presidential candidate, Gauck said he was “bewildered but also happy” by the outpouring of support he'd received from across the political spectrum.