The West Wing Election

I stopped watching after around six or seven consecutive season five episodes pissed me off to no end, but apparently the West Wing is making a lot of buzz this year with a fictional Presidential campaign. Check this out from Washington Whispers: White House and GOP insiders say they feel like suckers after falsely believing President Bush 's re-election would be met with acceptance from Hollywood. Their tip: Last month's West Wing episode in which the Alan Alda character blasted pols who use religion for political advantage. "Just when Hollywood was trying to get back in our good graces," said one insider, "they used that offensive script." Bushies think the script was targeting their boss. But Lawrence O'Donnell, a former Democratic Hill staffer, tells us he was just writing a good story, and he adds that the Alda character is a Republican presidential candidate. Then he let Bush have it. "If the White House worries that when that subject comes up it is somehow aimed at the president, well, you know, who told them to use religion in campaigning so much?" asks O'Donnell. "There's no one in our modern political history who has used his religiosity more deliberately and actively and falsely in campaigning than George Bush, second only to . . . Bill Clinton ." Interestingly, Zogby is conducted a pretty extensive poll of West Wing viewers to help determine who wins the television election. Right now, Jimmy Smits (Democrat Mark Santos) is leading Alan Alda (Republican Arnold Vinick) by a comfortable margin: Viewers of NBC's The West Wing would prefer that Democratic Congressman Matthew Santos were elected the next President, giving him a 16-point lead over Republican Senator Arnold Vinick, a new Zogby Interactive poll finds. The interactive poll of 5,505 West Wing viewers was conducted from February 18 to 25, 2005, and has a margin of error of +/-0.7 percentage points.

Santos, the Texas Congressman played by Jimmy Smits, is the favorite of a plurality in the poll, which was weighted to ensure it reflects the partisan breakdown of the U.S. population, and not just the demographic that views The West Wing frequently or occasionally. Arnold Vinick, the California Senator played by veteran actor Alan Alda, trails significantly. The poll also found one-in-five viewers (19%) still undecided on the race, while 9% are not willing to support either candidate. (...)

Part of Vinick's problems can be attributed to a gender gap. While he and Santos are tied among men, each getting 35% of the vote, Santos holds a commanding lead among women, where he outpolls Vinick by 53% to 22%.

Vinick also has failed to sew up Republican support. While Santos has the support of three-quarters of Democrats (74%), Vinick only has a lock on 49% of Republicans. Among independents, meanwhile, Santos leads 39% to 26%.

Considering Vinick's comments about politicians and religion, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he is struggling among Republicans.
Here is the conroversial exchange:Senator Vinick: "Look...I respect Reverend Butler, & I respect his church too much to use it for my own political purposes. That's exactly what I would be doing If I went down there this sunday. The truth is that it would be an act of political phoniness. I may be wrong but I supspect our churches have enough political phonies in them."

Reporter: "Senator, do you or do you not..."

Senator Vinick: "I don't see how we can have a seperation of Church & State in this government, if you have to pass a religious test, to get in this government. And I want to warn everyone in the press & all the voters out there, If you demand expressions of Religious Faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to. They won't all lie to you, but a lot of them will, and it will be the easiest lie they ever had to tell to get your votes. So every day until the end of this campaign, I will answer any question anyone has on government, but if you have a quesion on Religion...Please go to church. Thank You."

Tags: Culture (all tags)



What Would the Democrats Do?
If the GOP really ran a center-right candidate from a big blue state like Vinick? Do they dodge right? Move more left? Try to force "Vinick" right? Where do they find the electoral votes they'd lose in California?
by rich kolker 2005-04-04 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: What Would the Democrats Do?
It would be a heck of a lot like running against Ahnold in 2008 (assuming the Constitution were changed to allow him to run, of course).
by dwbh 2005-04-04 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: What Would the Democrats Do?
In order to compensate for the loss of California, a Democrat such as the fictional Santos could win a combination of victories in Texas (plausible for Santos - TX is his homestate) plus AZ, NM, and one of NV or CO.  If he loses TX, he would need FL along with AZ, NM, and CO (if I've done my electoral math correctly.)

But I suspect that Vinick will win because, after having written for so many seasons about an idealized Democratic president, the writers must think it will keep the show fresh - and their jobs more interesting - if they now create stories about an idealized GOP president.

But maybe there will be some twist that keeps Santos on the show. Perhaps he will end up in a high-ranking position in the Vinnick administration - a show of bipartisanship to help pull the country together after a tight race. I wouldn't put it past the WW writers to pull something like that.

by Rob in Vermont 2005-04-04 03:19PM | 0 recs
The season finale will be on Wednesday night, and I expect Santos to get the nomination at the Dem convention and win the election.  I agree that the season was pretty bad at the beginning, wandering all over the place, and then making it seem like Bartlett was going to die of an MS attack.  I can't wait until Wednesday at 9.
by Max Friedman 2005-04-04 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Santos
No way.  Bingo Bob has almost 100 more delegates and the Governor of Pennsylvania about to sign on to his ticket.

And Hoynes can't run together with Santos because they're both from Texas.  So no deal there.

I expect Russel will be the nominee.

by Newt 2005-04-04 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Santos
Yeah, but in the preview of the next episode, last week, Santos was coming out of the tunnel as Bartlett was saying: "The next President..."
by msrpotus 2005-04-04 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Santos
Yes, but Santos could also approach that same governor. And he could make a pretty good case that his chances of winning in the general election are better than Russell's.
by Rob in Vermont 2005-04-04 03:39PM | 0 recs
WW is a no-win for Dems
The problem is that Bartlett's White House is (or was, esp during its higher-rated seasons) such a paragon of sincerity and reality-based policymaking, that I'm sure it reassured independents that "this must be typical of all White Houses--even Bush's."  I suspect that a Santos Presidency would be similar.

I'm wary about a Vinick administration, too.  A reality-based conservativism is so far from the "mayberry machiavellis" we have there now, that it, too, is likely to reassure, rather than raise the alarm.  

That being said, at least the campaign story line of this season has piqued a little interest compared to the woeful stories of last year.

by plunkitt 2005-04-04 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: WW is a no-win for Dems
By todays standards, Vinick is a Democrat.  
by Max Friedman 2005-04-04 09:58AM | 0 recs
Martin Sheen for Governor!!
Wouldn't it be awesome to see him run against Schwarzenegger in 2006??  I heard him speak at an anti-war rally in San Francisco in January 2003, and thought he would be a great candidate to run against that sorry excuse of a President we currently have.

But hey ... I'd be thrilled if he could knock off that sorry excuse of a Governor we have now.  

   -- Paul Hogarth
       San Francisco, CA

by Paul Hogarth 2005-04-04 09:56AM | 0 recs
why do they even want Hollywood support? I thought they thought every actor is a crazy liberal. There is a good diary at Kos on this, and someone mentioned that this is like Murphy Brown and Dan Quayle all over again(Quayle was also pissed that Rachel, on Friends, was a single mom). As far as the show, I kind of thought Vinick would win, especially since the week before last they, should him walking through the WH to meet the prez. And everyone stops and watches are he strolls by the halls. Kind of thought it was foreshadowing. But, on a practical note, many dont think Alan Alda would sign on to another series for several years. So I'll saw Matt Santos wins, I guess.
by jj32 2005-04-04 10:37AM | 0 recs
How Santos Might Win
In the world of West Wing, it is pretty clear that the Democrats have little chance in beating Vinick.  He's too good.  If the script writers want to make Santos' victory plausible, it could go something like this: due to Vinick's pro-choice stance, a pro-life crazy-guy decides to run in the general election.  Vinick then loses a significant chunck of the religious conservative base, and Santos manages to win without getting more than 50% of the popular vote.
by nanoboy 2005-04-04 11:35AM | 0 recs
Video of the West Wing
by onegoodmove 2005-04-04 12:39PM | 0 recs
I love the West Wing
So kudos for Chris on making this post.

I really like Vinnick (although I wouldn't vote for him in all likelihood), if the Reps put candidates like him out front and center (and putting Giulani,etc. out there just for campaigns don't count), I would be able to respect political opponents of the candidates I support.

That being said VInnick wins unless there is a right winger that runs as a 3rd party.

by ben114 2005-04-04 01:18PM | 0 recs
Santos will win the Dem nom, Vinnick will win...
...the general election, IMHO of course.  Vinnick is the type of Republican (the nearly extinct, sane kind) I think the West Wing writers could stand writing about.

Also, if you haven't been watching the show, not only did Vinnick blast using religion in politics, but he also admitted (to both his campaign advisors and, interestingly, to President Bartlett himself, in seperate scenes) that he is not a religious man and does not go to church (although he was at one point in time).  He actually gave different reasons why he lost his faith in the two scenes, but it's clear he's non-religious (it's also clear that this is not general knowledge to the public).  If you were to classify him, agnostic would probably be accurate.  If Santos is to win, having Bartlett or somebody else leak his non-religious stance might be an interesting story line, because Vinnick looks unstoppable otherwise.  Interestingly, Vinnick's main primary opponent was a preacher and not a career politician, discussion of whom is why this all came up in the first place.  Also, note that Bartlett is a religious man, which reverses the dynamics of real life here.

by Geotpf 2005-04-04 01:51PM | 0 recs
Alda is a Democrat in real life
Why is so unreal about the West Wing episodes is that Alan Alda is a liberal Democrat in real life running as a Republican. Alda stands up for feminists causes and supported Kerry in the recent election. I liked the West Wing, but without Bartlett as president, They will probably lose me as a viewer.
by wise liberal 2005-04-04 02:30PM | 0 recs
It's called "acting."
Alan Alda can act as a fascist, although his charisma would make you like him even as he condemned hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths.  The man could be entertaining while reading a phone book, but I digress.  I'll probably watch The West Wing, even if Vinick wins.  I suspect that a spoiler candidate will take away Vinick's win, though.
by nanoboy 2005-04-05 06:34AM | 0 recs


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