What do you think would have been the election results in 1992 if, say, Paul Tsongas had won the Democratic nomination? You can choose whether you think Ross Perot would still have run under that scenario or not.OK, I do like this question.
To begin with, you can never get into a politician's head, but generally I'd say that as far as I know Perot was motivated by his ego and his hatred of George H.W. Bush, so nothing there. On the other hand, as Steve Kornacki would note Perot didn't really affect the outcome.
As far as Tsongas...I've probably mentioned this before, but I consider him one of the most dishonest candidates ever. That's not really relevant, but I always like to repeat it (I don't know that he knew for a fact that he was dying, but I don't think he was honest about the situation).
I don't know...I tend to believe that out-party candidates make little difference. I'd definitely say that Bob Kerrey would have probably done just as well as Bill Clinton did. Tsongas? I don't know; it's so unlikely that it's hard to imagine what a nomination-winning Tsongas would have looked like. I guess what I'd say is that I'm open to the idea that just from candidate campaigning quality I'm open to the idea that Clinton could have done a couple of points better than Tsongas. They would presumably have been about the same in terms of perception of their ideology -- which does matter, and could have made Tom Harkin a couple of points worse -- but for the rest of it you have to figure that they're about as big a spread as you could get on electioneering skill, no? So call that a couple of percentage points in November, but then remember that a Tsongas who could actually be nominated would be better at that stuff than real Tsongas was, and so never mind.
(Okay, Tsongas had ideological/issue reasons for not getting the Democratic nomination, too. It's a good reminder that the last loser standing isn't always the one who came second-closest to winning the nomination -- Tsongas and Jerry Brown in 1992, probably McCain in 2000, Santorum this year).