National Harbor, Maryland (CNN)The 2016 presidential campaign could be the first one driven primarily by foreign policy since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told a dinner audience Friday night.
Pence: 'Jihadi John' doesn't want a job
The Republican former congressional leader ticked off a series of international challenges, including Russia, the rise of China's military and the threat Iran poses to Israel.
And he invoked the "Jihadi John" seen on propaganda videos.
"Mr. President, 'Jihadi John' doesn't want a job," Pence said. "He wants to see paradise and I think we should help him get there as quickly as possible."
Pence, a dark horse presidential contender who hasn't taken serious steps toward the race, and who is frozen on the sidelines until his state's legislative session wraps up at the end of April, argued for a stronger U.S. military.
He called for new combat systems, the resumption of F-22 fighter jet production and a rebuilt Navy.
"Without rebuilding our military, no strategy or innovation, no matter how brilliant, will be sufficient to protect the people and sovereignty of the United States," Pence said.
The first-term governor also sounded a theme that several other state executives -- including Texas's Rick Perry, Wisconsin's Scott Walker and New Jersey's Chris Christie -- had invoked, saying more decisions should be left to states.
But he departed from those governors by acknowledging that the federal government isn't the same as a state government.
"What I can tell you I'm looking for is not somebody who says 'send me to Washington, D.C. and I'll run it like my state.' Washington, D.C. is not a state, literally or figuratively," Pence said.
"I'm listening for someone who says 'send me to Washington, D.C. and I'll fight to make it more possible for the next person leading my state to govern with more freedom and flexibility," he said.