SALT LAKE CITY -- Whether his campaign gains steam or fizzles, Jon Huntsman Jr. has chosen to set an admirably high standard for the conduct of his candidacy, and there could be no better outcome of his quest for the presidency than if his pledge of civility becomes contagious.
Too much of our political discourse has become shrill, even nasty, and Utah's former governor senses there is an untapped yearning in America for a more calm and respectful dialogue.
We expect his pledge is genuine, by virtue of the way he waged his two successful campaigns for governor. There was plenty of debate and disagreement, but it remained above the gutter, proving that it isn't whether you challenge an opponent, but how you do it.
There are no Marquess of Queensberry rules on how to fight fair in politics. Negative campaigns have in fact worked, and candidates who are attacked but who choose not to attack back, risk being branded as weak.
But we suspect that Mr. Huntsman is on to something. Legions of American voters are not handcuffed to the dogmatism of the left or the right, but reside comfortably in the vast territories in between. They are less concerned with which partisan interests prevail than whether problems are solved. They are looking for consensus, not for someone to blame. In short, the American voter is much more mature than the current tone of our national discourse would suggest.
Raising that tone is a laudable goal. Civility cannot replace substance -- Mr. Huntsman still needs to sell a platform and define the exact nature of the leadership he would provide. But we are comforted that at least one candidate will work to set an example that would finally make the high road, the road more traveled.