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Crist chases history, and possibly political oblivion

Charlie Crist is courting political history in next week's election.

If he wins, he'll be the first governor of Florida elected as both a Republican and a Democrat -- and only the sixth in the U.S. since 1900.

If he loses, Crist could be on his way to another kind of history. Losing to Gov. Rick Scott would make Crist a three-time loser in statewide politics (he lost U.S. Senate bids in 1998 and 2010). The third strike, or the so-called negative hat trick, has cut short the careers of a number of other big-name Florida politicians.

The latest example is Bill McCollum, who lost the Republican primary to Scott in 2010 after losing U.S. Senate bids in 2000 and 2004. Tom Gallagher, Crist's opponent in the 2006 GOP primary for governor, vanished from the political scene after a third statewide loss that followed unsuccessful bids for governor in 1986 and 1994.

Then there's Bill Gunter, a Democrat who served in Congress and as state treasurer and insurance commissioner. Gunter agonizingly failed on three occasions to get to the U.S. Senate (1974, 1980 and 1988). He was the Democratic nominee in 1980 and lost to Republican Paula Hawkins.

How about the late Jack Eckerd? The Republican drugstore magnate from Pinellas County lost bids for governor in 1970 and 1978 and for U.S. Senate in 1974.

Crist is 58, and he would have a lot of political life left. But the history of Florida speaks for itself: A third statewide loss is too much to overcome.