Meade and I had what was to me a fascinating conversation yesterday, passing the mental time while we rode a 20-mile bike trail, so I thought you might enjoy batting this around in the comments.
Assume JFK was not assassinated. Now, beginning with the 1964 election and continuing up to 2012, name the candidates for President and Vice President in both parties and who would have won. Fill in with reasons why this happened.
I'll reveal our answers, which is mostly Meade's, after you have some time to talk about it, uninfluenced by us.
UPDATE: In 1964, JFK is reelected, with LBJ as VP. The GOP does not yet do its big shift to conservatism, and its defeated candidate is Nelson Rockefeller (whose VP choice is William Scranton). Barry Goldwater rises up in 1968, and he is successful, defeating LBJ (who has Hubert Humphrey as his VP). Goldwater's VP is William Miller (as it was, in actual history, in 1964), and Goldwater is an immensely successful President, winning the war in Vietnam, leaving civil rights issues to the states (and in the process preserving federalism values, to be used to excellent effect in succeeding years), and foreseeing and avoiding the problems of dependency on imported oil. Goldwater is reelected in 1972, defeating Hubert Humphrey (who has Scoop Jackson as his VP).
In 1976, Bobby Kennedy is the Democratic nominee (with Walter Mondale as VP), and he wins, defeating William Miller (who has Bob Dole as his VP). Bobby gets health-care reform, called "Bobbycare." But Bobbycare goes too far, and RFK goes down in 1980, crushed by Ronald Reagan (whose VP is George H.W. Bush). Reagan is reelected in 1984, defeating Walter Mondale (who has Geraldine Ferraro as his VP).
In 1988, it's Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen against George H.W. Bush and Jack Kemp, and — no big surprise — Bush and Kemp win. But they're in for only one term. Blamed for the economy — stupid! — they lose, in 1992, to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Clinton and Gore are reelected in 1992 (facing Jack Kemp and his VP choice Tommy Thompson).
In 2000, it's Gore (with Lieberman) against George W. Bush (with Cheney), and Bush wins. In 2004, John Kerry (with John Edwards) lose to Bush and Cheney. In 2008, it's John Edwards against Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney wins. (We won't worry about their VPs right now.) Challenged by Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney is reelected in 2012. And we don't get our first woman President. But the Romney terms come to a close. Now it's 2012, and Hillary goes for it again, only to be defeated in the primaries by another "first," the possible first black President, this fascinating upstart with the funny name Barack Hussein Obama. (But America, having avoided dependence on foreign oil, thanks to Barry Goldwater, never got dragged into crazy interactions with those Middle East countries, and there was never a 9/11 terrorist attack or an Iraq war, or any of those things that would make "Hussein" seem truly odd.)
Speaking of firsts, there's a first coming up on the GOP side, a woman! It's the hyper-competent and stunningly beautiful Sarah Palin. With 8 years as Governor of Alaska, her executive experience and record of accomplishment wow America. (She was term-limited in 2014, and spent the next 2 years running for President.) And so in 2016, we have our big first, the first woman President: Sarah Palin!