From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce Thursday whether he will pursue an independent Senate bid, continue on in the Republican primary, or drop his candidacy altogether.
Crist's political fall has been monumental. Once considered a shoo-in for the seat, the prized recruit of the National Republican Senatorial Committee now trails by more than 20 points to an upstart former House speaker. Crist, strategists say, failed to take Republican challenger Marco Rubio seriously. His decline is also one of a handful of examples of GOP races across the country in which the Republican Party's internal ideological battle -- a tug of war between the pragmatists and the purists -- has been on full display.
Despite the GOP's expected short-term gains this fall -- largely owed to the nation's high unemployment rate -- problems still lurk for the party's long-term stability. Republicans' ideological civil war, the recent passage of a controversial Arizona immigration law, and an uncertain shortlist of Obama challengers all raise questions about its ability to compete on a presidential level.
"From a presidential perspective, we have real [expletive] problems," said one GOP operative based in Washington, D.C., who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the state of the party frankly. "From a national candidate perspective, we have real problems."