Putting the GOP in Peril? Crist Expected to Run as Independent, Sources Say

Charlie Crist Expected to Leave GOP, Run as Independent

The Senate races in Kentucky and Arizona are also spawning bloody Republican primary battles. And in the Texas gubernatorial primary, Washington-bashing Republican Gov. Rick Perry -- another Tea Party darling -- easily crushed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison -- once thought a Republican powerhouse.

Some think it may become a prototype for an independent presidential bid in 2012 by somebody like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may determine it's better to challenge a Republicans by running as an independent.

Party switching is not new or unique. Former Rhode Island GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee left the party to run as an independent, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg went from being a Democrat to a Republican to an independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman switched to independent, and most recently, Sen. Arlen Specter moved from the Republican to the Democratic party.

A Republican source told ABC News that Crist had started calling his major donors to tell them of his decision to run as an independent.

The source says that virtually all of his political staff will leave.

"I'm sure they already have their boxes packed," said the source, who was granted anonymity to encourage candor about the still-evolving situation.

One staffer who is expected to stay on board is Crist's finance director, Dane Eagle. Crist will need him if, as expected, many donors ask for their money back when Crist bolts the GOP.

The source says that a long-time Crist supporter from Tampa named Greg Truax is helping him assemble a new staff.

ABC News' Kristina Wong, Teddy Davis, David Chalian and Gary Langer contributed to this report.

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