Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is getting into the race today for the Republican nomination for president, and I’m glad for it. Of all the candidates in the field, he’s the one I find most intriguing, for a couple of reasons.

For the folks looking for a GOP alternative to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Huntsman could fill the bill. They both look presidential and have families to match. They’re both smart and have substantial records to run on (and away from) in an appeal to voters. But there are two things that make Huntsman stand out and more promising to me. First, his stances on issues appear to be more firm than Romney’s. For instance, one election cycle Romney is pro-choice, another he’s not. Huntsman is pro-life. Second, Huntsman is willing to stand by positions he’s taken that very well could hurt him with the Republican Party faithful. Huntsman was tapped by President Obama to be the ambassador to China. But he’s not running away from his acceptance of that job. In fact, when he was asked if he’d do it again he said without hesitation that he would. Huntsman is also pro-immigration and pro-civil unions, which puts him to the right of the Cheney family and to the far left of the Republican Party platform.

It is that willingness to be unabashedly moderate in a party that has swung far to the right that makes Huntsman so appealing to me. And to many Republicans. GOP strategist Mark McKinnon, an adviser to 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said on “Morning Joe” today that he doesn’t think Huntsman is too moderate for the party. A nomination fight with Huntsman in it will be “a fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.”

In an excerpt from his announcement speech, Huntsman says something that I hope will resonate with primary voters.

I don’t think you need to run down anyone’s reputation to run for President. Of course we’ll have our disagreements. I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who’s the better American.

Amen! This country could use a presidential election that is based on substance and devoid of the incendiary rhetoric that not only inflames our differences but also allows candidates to avoid real answers to the nation’s very real problems.