Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, though he was considered a presidential longshot by some, has left moderate Republicans in a lurch with his departure to China. The party is "headed for a blowout," says one of his strategists, unless they can find a middle-of-the-road spokesman.

From The Washington Examiner:

"If it's 2012 and our party is defined by Palin and Limbaugh and Cheney, then we're headed for a blowout," says strategist John Weaver, who advised Huntsman and was for years a close adviser to Sen. John McCain. "That's just the truth."

. . .

In addition to being out of the 2012 presidential race, Huntsman is also out of the ongoing debate over the future of the Republican party. Quinn, who met with Huntsman during the visit to South Carolina, says the Utah governor "seemed to be highly motivated to try to re-brand the Republican party as an institution that can win elections all across the country."  Now, Huntsman won't be doing that, not only because it would not be a proper role for an ambassador but also because he will be thousands of miles away in Beijing.
Some Republicans, though, say Huntman's acceptance of the ambassadorship doesn't mean much, since Huntsman would never have won the Republican primary. Matthew Continetti explains on the Weekly Standard's blog:
[T]he problem with this argument is that what is "mainstream" changes over time. As unpopular as the Republican party is at the moment, it is actually winning a lot of the debates in Washington. . .
 

It takes a while for the public to catch up. When they do - and it may not happen until 2016 - they'll go looking for someone who, in all likelihood, opposed the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and ObamaCare. He (or she!) won't be a moderate, and won't be named Huntsman. Why? Because an Obama-friendly moderate stands absolutely no chance of winning a Republican presidential nomination anytime soon. The coalition that would nominate such a man (or woman!) exists, sure. In the Democratic party. Not the GOP.