Republican strategist Mike Murphy, caught in a whirlpool of competing currents, does not expect to join the McCain campaign as a strategist, Murphy and people familiar with the situation said this morning.

Though Murphy has told associates that McCain asked him to come aboard ten days ago, he has come to believe that the press speculation about his arrival has become a maelstrom of insanity and is damaging McCain. By the end of the day, it will be clear, said two people directly familiar with the situation, that Murphy will not be joining the campaign. Instead, he is on the verge of signing a consulting contract with NBC News, a source said. (Murphy would not confirm the television deal.)

Several current senior aides to McCain have come to believe that Murphy is waging a subterranean campaign to pressure McCain into publicly asking him to come on board. McCain has denied to several of these aides that he asked Murphy to return.

"I'm not waging a public anything. And I want this speculation to end," Murphy said in a brief e-mail this morning.

"The candidate and his senior aides did not discuss with Mike or anyone, consider or offer him the strategist job," a McCain aide said this morning.

Some McCain aides suspect that Murphy ginned up an ultimatum to give the press a Murphy-friendly explanation as to why he isn't working on the campaign, but Murphy, in an interview yesterday, said that the public discussion of his role came from well-meaning friends and associates.

Reports that Murphy and current campaign CEO Steve Schmidt do not get along are disputed by some close to McCain but accepted as correct by others; the two do talk regularly, although they have different ideas about how to reform the campaign.

For some good background to the story, read Jason Zengerle's take.

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