This is a sketch of an alternate timeline where Operation Eagle Claw, (commonly known as Desert One) was successful. Desert One was the 1980 operation to rescue the hostages from the American Embassy in Iran. The operation's failure was humiliating for President Carter and is widely seen to have contributed to his defeat in November later that year.
April 25, 1980: Operation Eagle Claw, despite losing three of the six helicopters sent, is a success. All of the hostages are rescued, though two American servicemen are killed.
April 26, 1980: President Carter addresses the nation about the mission's success. Polls later that week show that the President's approval rating has jumped to 51%.
November 4, 1980: In the closest election in American history, President Carter manages to retain the Presidency with 273 electoral votes. The GOP takes control of the Senate.
1981-1984: The economy slowly improves, but remains sluggish throughout President Carter's second term. The Senate's obstructionism blocks any substantial legislative progress. Carter's ratings hover in the low 40s for most of the term.
November 1984: In the presidential elections, George H. W. Bush defeats Vice President Walter Mondale by a comfortable margin. Bob Dole is elected to the Vice Presidency.
November 1988: With the economy booming, Bush is easily elected to a second term.
Winter 1991: While Bush's approval ratings are sky-high in the wake of the Gulf War, Democrats know they will be running against the Vice President in 1992. High profile Democrats such as Al Gore and Mario Cuomo enter the race; who would not be willing to take on the incumbent. Though Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas mulls a run, he doubts he will find enough financial support for with Gore in the race. There are both moderate Southerners; and Gore has far higher national recognition. He eventually endorses Gore.
November 1992: Al Gore defeats Bob Dole in elections that year as the public sours on the GOP in the wake of a recession. Bill Clinton is elected Vice President.
November 1996: Gore wins a second term.
November 2000: Vice President Clinton narrowly wins the presidency, besting George W. Bush. Their running mates are Dick Gephardt and Dick Cheney, respectively.
September 11, 2001: Terrorists attack the World Center in New York and the Pentagon.
October, 2001: The United States invades Afghanistan, hunting Osama bin Laden. The invasion force ultimately tops 250,000 men.
Early 2003: Despite calls from some elements of the Republican Party, President Clinton chooses further sanctions, rather than invasion, to deal with the crisis over weapons inspections in Iraq.
November 2004: President Clinton wins a second term over John McCain, with a small 3% margin.
August 2005: Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans. President Clinton arrives on the scene less than 36 hours after the storm had passed. He is given high marks for his initial response, though recovery remains painfully slow. The massive reconstruction bill the President sought is blocked in Congress, though he is able to secure some funding.
Summer 2008: A financial crisis threatens the global economy, which slides into recession. President Clinton is forced to secure passage for a widely unpopular Wall St. bailout.
November 2008: With both business experience and a popular economic message, Mitt Romney defeats Vice President Gephardt in the presidential election. In order to secure values voters, Romney selected Mike Huckabee as his running mate, who is elected Vice President.