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Charlie Crist is likely to lose by double digits in Florida’s gubernatorial election on Tuesday. For his trouble, he may land a job in the Biden administration, but his political career will essentially be over. That career has spanned more than 30 years, and it serves as a cautionary tale about political opportunism.

Crist first ran for Florida’s state senate as a Republican in 1986 and lost in the run-off for the primary. In 1992, Crist won a state senate seat that Democrats had controlled for 128 years. His election helped shift control of the chamber. It also suggested changing political winds in Florida that eventually elected Republicans from Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis. As a state senator, Crist supported many of the policies Republicans champion today, such as school choice and cracking down on crime.

In 1998, Crist made a try for the U.S. Senate, taking on Democratic incumbent Bob Graham. It was a tough year for Republicans, though, given widespread public feeling that the party had overreached in pursuing impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Additionally, Graham was an institution in Florida. Crist lost by more than 20 points. But his run earned him goodwill in the party, and in 2000, he won his race for education commissioner.

Crist’s political career really took off in 2002, when he was elected Florida’s attorney general amid an unexpectedly good midterm for Republicans. In that race, Crist again campaigned on being tough on crime. He fulfilled that campaign promise by increasing the jurisdiction of his office.

Crist’s success as attorney general led him to run for governor in 2006. He won a competitive primary and went on to victory in the general election. Crist’s triumph in a swing state captured national attention because Republicans lost big nationally that year.

As governor, however, Crist began to reveal his political opportunism. In the 2008 Republican presidential primary, Florida voted early in the cycle for the first time, making it a must-win state for many campaigns. Crist allegedly promised Rudy Giuliani that he would endorse him and Mitt Romney that he would stay neutral. Instead, Crist endorsed John McCain.

Crist’s political stock continued to rise. After Republicans took a drubbing in 2008, Crist ran for the open Florida Senate seat in 2010, casting himself as a savior who could keep the seat in Republican hands. But times had changed. Crist angered Republicans by praising Barack Obama’s stimulus package – and doing so while standing with Obama on stage in Florida. Marco Rubio capitalized on Crist’s misjudgment and overcame his initial wide lead to defeat him in the primary. Crist then ran for the Senate seat as an independent, but Rubio prevailed handily.

Crist campaigned for Obama’s reelection in 2012 and joined the Democratic Party. He then tried to regain the governor’s mansion, running in 2014 against his successor, Republican Rick Scott. The race was close because Scott was a polarizing figure, but Crist lost narrowly in a tough year for Democrats. Some in the press noted that Crist had flip-flopped on every major issue.

At this point, many thought that Crist’s political career was over. But the Florida Supreme Court changed Florida’s districts based on a redistricting law, transforming a Republican-leaning congressional seat into a Democratic one. Crist ran for that seat and won, but his tenure in the House was unremarkable. Now he is making one last try for the governor’s office.

Thirty-six years after his first run for office as a Republican, Charlie Crist is a loyal foot soldier for the Democrats. Crist had an impressive early career, where he staked out his leadership on various issues, in particular crime, and the voters rewarded him. But once Crist became consumed with winning at all costs, he betrayed his principles and suffered electorally. As they always do, the midterm elections will welcome some fresh faces to politics. Regardless of party, these newcomers should regard Crist’s career as an example of what to avoid.

Todd Carney is a lawyer and frequent contributor to RealClearPolitics. He earned his juris doctorate from Harvard Law School.

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