How far would John Edwards have gone?

I think one of the most significant counter-factuals or alternative universes we can fathom is one where John Edwards doesn’t have an affair in 2006-2008.  Let’s lay out the scenario from there:

Edwards goes on to finish 3rd in 2008.  He mostly disappears for a while as his wifes’ health fails, meaning he probably doesn’t go into the Obama administration.  This leads us to 2016.  Hillary Clinton runs, but what if John Edwards runs as well? He’s 63 at this point, obviously wants to be President, and isn’t his Two Americas message the perfect distillation of Bernie Sanders-like grievances in a form that’s palatable for mainstream Dems?  Does Bernie even run in a race between Hillary and John Edwards?  And seeing Hillary’s weakness in that race, doesn’t it seem reasonable John Edwards wins the Nomination, holds the Midwest/Iron Belt, and is President right now?

Let’s go another direction: Let’s say Edwards either runs and loses the 2016 nomination to Hillary, or passes entirely on 2016.  Isn’t he the perfect candidate to run in 2020.  He’s like a much more mainstream, likable Bernie Sanders.  Hillary supporters probably aren’t as antagonistic to him as they are to Bernie.  He is probably a very strong candidate, and the perfect mix of electability and liberal economic ideas.

I tend to think John Edwards is probably President or our next President if he doesn’t commit infidelity.  It’s amazing to think about what could have been, and how big a mistake one can commit.

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2020 Democrats Overrated/Underrated

It’s still a little early to say for sure how the 2020 Democratic Primary will look.  We can make some educated guesses at this point, though:

Joe Biden

OVERRATED: Biden simply has too much material for opponents to work with.  He might be likable now, but if he gets in the race and begins to look even remotely like a threat, he’ll get hit with ads on everything from segregation-era remarks to #MeToo problems to any number of other gaffes from over the years.

Cory Booker

UNDERRATED: Hillary Clinton won many of her delegates in 2016 by running up big margins in predominantly African-American districts.  Booker may very well have the best chance of emulating this path.  He also has a legitimate legislative win to his name in Criminal Justice Reform.  Many of the other US Senators on this list don’t have any accomplishments that major that stand out.

Sherrod Brown

UNDERRATED: He may not be as buzzy as some of the other candidates running, but he has major union support and plays well in swing states.  If electability is a big concern for Democratic primary voters, he will get a lot of looks (especially if Biden stays out or gets in and fades).

Julian Castro

EVEN: He can’t be ruled out completely, and he has a message that may play well.  It’s just hard to see how he will stand out with the primary electorate overall or attract the grassroots dollars of some of the other names on this list.

Kirsten Gillibrand

OVERRATED: She has too many past positions that are completely out of line with the electorate.  Her one area she stands out on is her #MeToo credentials from being one of the first to call on Al Franken’s resignation, but I’m not sure how far that will go in a field that may very easily have at least half-a-dozen female candidates.

Kamala Harris

OVERRATED: A career prosecutor is going to have a hard time going the distance in a Democratic primary in this environment.  She has some major criminal justice reform issues from her time in CA, and that could very well create more room for Booker in particular to consolidate the African-American and youth votes.

Amy Klobuchar

EVEN: She maybe gets some traction if electability becomes a big issue, and she’s shown substantive acumen in big moments such as the Kavanaugh and Barr nomination hearings.  If this electorate is more focused on ideology than electability, though, it’s hard to see a lane for Klobuchar.

Beto O’Rourke

OVERRATED: He had the benefit in 2018 of running against a national bogeyman.  There’s just not much evidence he’ll hold up on a national stage running against other Democrats as of yet.

Bernie Sanders

OVERRATED: Age will be a quiet problem with voters, and too many of his voters will scatter with more options than Hillary Clinton this time around.

Elizabeth Warren

EVEN: She’s put together a serious team and will reap the benefits of an early start.  She’ll be priced in as one of the top contenders, but all indications as of now are that she should be.