7 giant what-ifs of American politics

Joe Biden holds meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House

What if Joe Biden had run for president? What if Clinton had beat Obama back in 2008? 7 giant what-ifs of modern American politics.

1. What if Lyndon B. Johnson had sought a third term?

Democratic VP Johnson became president following JFK’s assassination in 1963. He went on to win a landslide in the 1964 election, but decided not to run for a second-full term in 1968, which was then won Republican Richard Nixon won.

If Johnson had run, would he have beaten Nixon and secured an historic third term? If he had, it is worth noting that Johnson died four years later, around the time of Nixon’s second inauguration.

2. What if Joe Biden had sought the presidency in 2016?

Without Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic race, Hillary Clinton became the favourite to take on the Republicans in the 2016 election, which she went on to lose. If Joe Biden had run for the Democratic nomination, two questions spring to mind. Would he have beaten Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders? And if so, would he have beaten Donald Trump last November? These are two things we will never know.

3. What if Watergate had not happened?

Or at the very least, what if it had not been uncovered?

Nixon would have undoubtedly completed his second term, but would the Republican nominee have gone on to win the presidency in 1976 or would Jimmy Carter have won the election? Nixon’s legacy would no doubt have been very different to this day, unless of course the whole thing emerged years later, something which would retroactively damage his credibility.

4. What if Donald Trump had NOT run for president in 2016?

2016 was not the first time that Trump had hinted at running for president, but following his most recent announcement, he ended up seeing it through to the end and winning. But what if he had not run in 2016?

Would Ted Cruz have emerged victorious or would Kasich or Rubio have pulled through? And then, would the Republican nominee have beaten Hillary Clinton, or would Clinton have become the United States 45th president?

5. What if Al Gore had edged George Bush in Florida in 2000?

If Gore had gained an extra few hundred voters in Florida, he would have defeated Bush in the 2000 election and become America’s 43rd president. How would Gore have handled 9/11? Would he have gone on to win a second term, or would a new Republican challenger have emerged victorious in 2004?

6. What if Hillary Clinton had beaten Barack Obama in 2008?

If Clinton had won the Democratic primary, would she have gone on to win the presidency like Obama actually did, ending eight years of Republican-rule?

Or would John McCain have gone on to take the presidency for the Republicans?

7. What if Ross Perot had not run in 1992?

At the 1992 election, independent businessman Perot won almost 19% of the vote, but failed to win any electoral college votes or states. The result meant that Bill Clinton won the election with just 43% of the vote, ahead of incumbent president George H. W. Bush on 37%. Analysis from FiveThirtyEight suggests that Perot did not cost Bush the election, but we can never know for sure.