I CAN’T BELIEVE HE LOST TO THAT GUY…. When it comes to issues and policies, I think Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) is wrong about nearly everything. I can’t help, however, feel a little bad for him right now.

After 20 years in Congress, McCollum ran for the Senate in 2000, and lost. He ran for the Senate again in 2004, and lost again. In 2010, McCollum looked like he had the gubernatorial field all to himself, and polls showed him as the favorite in November. Then, disgraced former health care executive Rick Scott launched a bizarre primary challenge.

McCollum looked like he was closing strong, and enjoyed the support of the Republican Party and the state’s business community, but he came up short anyway — losing his third statewide bid in a decade, this time to a borderline-criminal who’s never shown any interest in public service.

Millionaire businessman Rick Scott’s surprise win in the Florida Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday left both parties scrambling over how to cope with a candidate who possesses both glaring flaws and considerable assets.

Scott’s three-percentage-point victory over state Attorney General Bill McCollum transforms what would have been a relatively bland general election contest between two establishment politicians into a race that will offer a test of outsider strength in a season of intense voter anger.

Rick Scott is, of course, best known as the former head of the Columbia/HCA health-care company that got caught up in a massive fraud scandal in the 1990s — and nothing says victory in Florida like “Medicare fraud.” Scott’s firm later pleaded guilty to charges that it overbilled state and federal health plans, and agreed to pay $1.7 billion in fines, a record penalty for a health care company. The fines covered fraud perpetrated under Scott’s watch, and he was forced out of his job as a result of the scandal.

More recently, Scott used his personal fortune to hire the Swiftboat liars’ p.r. firm, and proceeded to launch a breathtakingly deceptive right-wing ad campaign in opposition to health care reform. He is, by the way, also at the center of an ongoing scandal stemming from his alleged fraud in the ’90s.

And now he’s also the Republican gubernatorial nominee in one of the nation’s largest states.

As for McCollum, in his concession last night, he noted that “no one could have anticipated the entrance of a multi-millionaire with a questionable past who shattered campaign spending records and spent more in four months than has ever been spent in a primary race here in Florida.”

McCollum has not pledged his support for Scott, and the GOP nominee probably shouldn’t be waiting by the phone.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.