In one 2020 scenario, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would have seen the Olympic flame lighting up a packed National Stadium in July, the nation's economy booming due to tourism and his own political standing receiving a significant boost.

But the novel coronavirus has rewritten the state of play. Instead, the nation's longest-serving prime minister's calculations about his political future have been jolted. He may opt to pass the torch to a new leader. Or, he could gamble on a return to the Prime Minister's Office by seeking to win a fourth term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party.