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Jon Huntsman: The Candidate of Tomorrow

06/20/2011 12:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

Soon Jon Huntsman will make his case to America: why he should be the candidate that the American people will support.

He will go through the rigorous process of trying to earn the trust of first the Republican base and then, as he hopes, the electorate-at-large.

Six years ago, I met one of his daughters in a class at the University of Pennsylvania. Thoughtful and charming, his daughter impressed the entire class. As a C-SPAN regular, I knew who she was, while many others didn't, and we soon became close friends.

I have grown to know the Huntsmans over the years. Although I plan on making no endorsement, I do have something important to say:

Jon Huntsman is a true star. He and his family are genuine. I have been watching him for years and I as I have been writing on The Huffington Post, I truly believe that he is the candidate to watch this year.

This is the last commentary Huntsman wants or needs right now: kind words from a Democrat. But more than a Democrat, I am a friend.

Huntsman's firm belief in his values, his foreign policy experience, and for me personally -- his grasp of progressivism -- is where I believe he will eventually thrive.

I don't think Republicans should run from progressivism. It does not need to be a Democrat owned word. If you recall, at one time, Teddy Roosevelt even embraced it.

Jon Huntsman understands that in order for the Republican Party to survive it cannot be the party of yesterday. He understands that it must be inclusive not exclusive. For example, he garnered 80% of an approval rating in Utah supporting civil unions, where 70% of the state opposed them at the time. And he makes no apology for his pro-civil union stance (as he shouldn't) now.

Unlike Herman Cain and Mitt Romney, he does not say that he will exclude members of his cabinet based upon their religion. Unlike Rick Santorum, he did not once say that he equates homosexuality to incest.

You can call Huntsman a Democrat, but I simply say that he is decent.

If Republicans want to be the party of tomorrow, they will support Jon Huntsman. If they want to be the party of yesterday, they will support someone else. The choice is not mine.

To contact the author, visit: www.DavidHelfenbein.com or reach him via Twitter at: @DavidHelfenbein