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.