The West Wing presidential election, 2006

The West Wing presidential election, 2006

Infobox Election
election_name = The West Wing presidential election, 2006
country = United States
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = The West Wing presidential election, 2002
previous_year = 2002
next_election =
next_year =
election_date = November 7, 2006

nominee2 = Arnold Vinick
party2 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state2 = California
running_mate2 = Ray Sullivan
electoral_vote2 = 266
states_carried2 = 27
popular_vote2 = 69,754,328
percentage2 = 50%

nominee1 = Matt Santos
party1 = Democratic Party (United States)
home_state1 = Texas
running_mate1 = Leo McGarry
electoral_vote1 = 272
states_carried1 = 23+DC
popular_vote1 = 68,746,542
percentage1 = 50%

map_size = 275px
map_caption = Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Vinick/Sullivan (27), Blue denotes those won by Santos/McGarry (23+DC).
title = President
before_election = Josiah Bartlet
before_party = Democratic Party (United States)
after_election = Matt Santos
after_party = Democratic Party (United States)
The U.S. presidential election of 2006 is a fictional event portrayed during the sixth and seventh seasons on the American television show "The West Wing."

Incumbent President Josiah Bartlet was disqualified because he already served two terms. The Democratic Party chose Representative Matt Santos of Texas as their candidate while the Republican Party chose Senator Arnold Vinick of California. Santos was given little chance of success at the outset of his campaign, in light of the more favored Vice President Robert Russell and former Vice President John Hoynes. He eventually won the nomination after a rather contentious primary campaign and convention. Vinick was also seen as a dark horse candidate, but was able to secure nomination more easily than Santos. In the general campaign, the two candidates touched on many issues, including abortion, intelligent design, illegal immigration, taxes, and nuclear energy, the latter after a potential nuclear meltdown at the San Andreo nuclear power plant. In the end, Santos won a narrow 272-266 electoral college victory over Vinick to succeed Bartlet as President of the United States whilst Vinick won the popular vote by over a million votes.


The major party candidates were Representative Matt Santos of Texas and former Secretary of Labor Leo McGarry of Illinois, the Democratic Party's Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees, and Senator Arnold Vinick of California and Governor Ray Sullivan of West Virginia, the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees of the Republican Party. The two Presidential candidates "debated" in the only live episode of "The West Wing" in a debate with simpler rules designed by the candidates to let them speak openly and not from talking points.

In reality, the first American presidential election was held in 1789. Since then, the elections have been held every four years, beginning retroactively with the year 1788. Therefore, an election was held in 2004 and one is scheduled for 2008, but there is no presidential election scheduled for the years in between. This could mean that, in the world of "The West Wing", the first presidential election was held in either 1787 or 1791. However, it is widely thought by some viewers that, because history up until around the era of Richard Nixon seems to be the same in "The West Wing" as in established history, the timetable of elections was changed after that era. For example all the Presidential elections from 1928 to 1972 have all been mentioned on the show, so that, following Nixon's resignation, the Constitution was amended and a presidential election was held in 1974, with the four-year cycle of presidential elections shifting as a result. The most recent real-world election to be mentioned was the 1972 election. Since the off-year-election theory listed above has never been stated as fact during the show's first six seasons, it is also possible that the show takes place two years in the past or two years in the future.

On January 22, 2006, NBC announced that the series finale would be broadcast May 14, 2006. NBC stated that the decision to cancel had been made prior to the December 16, 2005 death of actor John Spencer, who played Vice Presidential contender Leo McGarry. However, the result of the election was reportedly [cite news|url=|title='West Wing' Writers' Novel Way of Picking the President|author=Steinberg, Jacques|work=The New York Times|date=2006-04-10|accessdate=2006-04-11] changed following Spencer's death, as the writers did not want "to make Santos lose both the election and his running mate." [cite web | title=Media Life Magazine | url= | accessdate=2006-04-10]


Democratic Party

*Democratic candidates:
**Eric Baker (played by Ed O'Neill), Governor of Pennsylvania who didn't join the race until the Convention
**John Hoynes (played by Tim Matheson), former Vice President and former U.S. Senator from Texas
**Ricky Rafferty (played by Mel Harris), U.S. Senator who joined the race after the New Hampshire Primary.
**Robert "Bob" Russell (played by Gary Cole), incumbent Vice President and former representative from Colorado
**Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), a three term congressman from Texas
** Clarkson, he ran both in Iowa and New Hampshire. Had pulled out of the race by Super Tuesday
** Governor Atkins, a Governor described as a fringe candidate. Had a handful of stray delegates at the Convention, although they had pulled out of the race by Super Tuesday. Atkins was stated by Russell to be the only non-white candidate other than Santos and in the New Hampshire Democratic debate, there was a black female candidate on the stage, so presumably this must have been Governor Atkins. Did spin for the Santos campaign on the day of the election on TV and Radio.

The New Hampshire Primary had seven Democratic candidates, Russell, Hoynes, Santos, Atkins, Clarkson, and two others, as Rafferty and Baker were not involved at the time. In the episodes "Swiss Diplomacy" and "Jefferson Lives", Josh also mentioned that Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tripplehorn was planning on running for the nomination, so it seems likely that he was another one of the candidates. During the series, Democratic Senators Lloyd Russell, Seth Gillette (D-ND) and Howard Stackhouse (D-MN) all considered presidential runs, but is not said whether any of them decided to run in 2006.

Under the provisions of the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, two-term incumbent President Josiah Bartlet was disqualified from running. As the sixth season of "The West Wing" began, the three clear frontrunners for the Democrat's presidential nomination were Eric Baker, Bob Russell, and John Hoynes, with Baker leading in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Baker took himself out of the race in what was supposed to be his announcement speech in November 2005, saying that his reasons involved his family.

With Baker no longer in the running, many saw the race as a two-way battle between Russell and Hoynes, with the former taking the lead due to his incumbency as Vice President and the memories of the sex scandal that had forced Hoynes to resign the Vice Presidency. Bartlet's Deputy Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, was unsatisfied with this matchup.

Lyman had been courted by both Hoynes and Russell to join their respective campaigns. However, despite previously working for Hoynes when he had been a Senator, their relationship soured dramatically during Hoynes' tenure as Vice President. Lyman doubted whether Russell could win the general election or make a good president even if he did. So he began fishing around for a candidate that he could run against Russell and Hoynes. Eventually, he settled on Democratic Representative Matt Santos of Texas after witnessing Santos' legislative prowess in getting a bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights passed by the House of Representatives. Despite the fact that the three-term congressman had previously told Lyman that he was retiring from both Congress and politics, he was eventually persuaded to run.

The campaign's start was hardly a good omen for success. Headquartered in a run-down boating supply store, Santos soon found himself dead last in the polls out of a field of seven candidates in both Iowa and New Hampshire, due mainly to his prior opposition to ethanol subsidies and several disparaging remarks that he had made in years past about the Granite State resembling a "Mayflower reunion." Not helping matters in the least was Santos' campaign style, which called for an issues-oriented campaign in a state which has long been known as the "grip-and-grin capital of the world."

Although he lost the Iowa caucus by a wide margin, Santos was able to pull off a moral victory in the New Hampshire primary when he broadcast a live thirty-second ad in which he promised not to use negative campaigning against his opponents and to always speak for himself in his commercials, instead of trying to distance himself from them as the other candidates had. These promises apparently struck a chord with voters, as Santos managed to take third-place, behind Russell and Hoynes, with 19% of the vote.

His celebration, however, was short-lived, as Senator Ricky Rafferty, a newly-declared candidate, managed to steal both media attention and the "insurgency candidate" image from Santos. Foremost in Rafferty's left-wing campaign was a plan for single-payer universal health care, which was secretly supplied to her by White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler. Although it was never specifically stated on the show, it appears that Senator Rafferty stayed in the race until the South Carolina primary before dropping out. Hoynes won the South Carolina primary, due to his popularity among southerners and moderates.

During the time between the New Hampshire primary and Super Tuesday, Santos had managed to win primaries in Arizona and New Mexico, but he had come in third in most of the others. In fact, his prospects were so bad that his fundraising had dried-up and he would have been forced to mortgage his house in order to continue until the Texas Primary if he did not at least come in second in California.

In the leadup to Super Tuesday, a former staffer for Hoynes revealed that the then-Senator had made improper sexual advances towards her. Hoynes had been leading the polls in California, and had received the endorsement of California Governor Gabriel Tillman. After Hoynes "suspended" his presidential campaign due to the reports of his sexual impropriety, Santos was able to maneuver into receiving the implicit endorsement of Governor Tillman, allowing him to win the California primary in an upset victory.

With the California victory came new-found momentum, allowing Santos to win primaries in many more states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. Once all the primaries were called, the primary map was split largely along geographical lines. Russell had large parts of the West, Midwest and Northeast. Santos had primarily taken most of the delegate-rich "big states" and a scattering of smaller states. And Hoynes had taken most of the southern states and a handful of others. The primary results for the US territories (Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, United States Virgin Islands) were never mentioned on the show. By the time of the Democratic National Convention, he had won enough delegates to leave Hoynes in the dust and virtually tie with Russell, deadlocking the convention on the first ballot.

The 2006 Democratic National Convention was held in San Diego, California (though scenes from "2162 Votes" show the convention center to be the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California). Prior to the convention, Santos turned down the offer of the Vice Presidential slot from Russell and decided to take his chances for the top job. Pennsylvania Governor Baker, an early favorite who had decided against running in the primaries, turned down Russell's offer of the Vice Presidential nomination and offered himself as a compromise candidate from the floor. Baker stole delegates from all of the other candidates and stretched the balloting to an unprecedented third day. Baker seemed poised to receive the nomination when members of the Russell campaign revealed to the press that Baker had covered up his wife's history of clinical depression. This made delegates question his integrity, causing him to lose his momentum and substantial support on the convention floor.

With the momentum of Baker's insurgency stalled, the convention remained deadlocked. In order to break the stalemate, Santos was ordered by the convention organizer, former White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, to step aside in favor of either Baker or Russell. Santos was given a chance to address the convention again and announce his support for one of the two remaining candidates. Instead of withdrawing, however, Santos gave a rousing speech, defending Baker and urging the delegates to choose the candidate who represented their hopes and dreams. This swung the momentum in the balloting back to him and impressed both President Bartlet and Leo McGarry.

Oddly, scenes of the ballots make it clear that the voting system for the primaries in the "West Wing" universe is "winner takes all", not the proportional system used in actual Democratic primaries in real life.

At the urging of Chief of Staff C.J. Cregg, President Bartlet decided to end the balloting before it damaged the party's image. Due to the president's behind-the-scenes machinations, Santos received the support of a key New York teacher union that had previously spurned him because of his views on teacher tenure. Santos clinched the nomination, eventually receiving 2,751 votes. Santos immediately ruled out choosing Russell as his running mate and Baker declined to perform the role, to spare his wife further press attention. Santos decided to choose Leo McGarry as his Vice Presidential running mate.

Republican Party

*Republican Party candidates:
** Allard, mentioned as a serious candidate during the Iowa caucus
**Reverend Don Butler (played by Don S. Davis), televangelist and minister from Virginia
**Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda), U.S. Senator from California
**Glen Allen Walken (played by John Goodman), former Speaker of the House and former Acting President of the United States from Missouri
** Mike Reed, governor of Ohio
** Darren Gibson, three-term congressman from Michigan
** Johnson, a candidate in Iowa caucus

Eight Republicans contested the nomination (as Vinick says after the election that he beat the "seven dwarfs") meaning four candidates were never named on the show, although two of these may have been three-term Michigan Congressman Darren Gibson, and Ohio Governor Mike Reed who where both given a key roles at the Republican National Convention attacking the record of the Bartlet administration. The name Gibson appears as a candidate during the episode King Corn, so it appears likely that Congressman Gibson was a candidate in the early primary states. The Republican primaries were initially described as "wide-open", due to the Republicans being out of power for eight years and therefore lacking a clear presumptive nominee. As the Primary season began former Speaker Walken was viewed by some as the front-runner, due to his successful tenure as Acting President during the Zoey Bartlet crisis, while Vinick's confirmed centrism and his pro-choice views on abortion made him a long-shot candidate. Allard was mentioned to have a lead in the Iowa caucus and it was said that a victory there would give him momentum in the New Hampshire primary.

In Iowa, Vinick presumably came in last due to opposition to ethanol subsidies, with either Walken or Allard winning. It is mentioned in "Drought Conditions", just after the New Hampshire primary, that Vinick has made a "clean sweep" and won at least the NH primary. Vinick's results improved, presumably due to his campaigning ability and his ability to deny the Democrats California and its 55 electoral votes in the general election. It was mentioned that the press were lauding him for his stand against ethanol in Iowa, which may have helped him in New Hampshire or some of the other early states. By Super Tuesday, reporters state that Vinick is "sweeping the Republican primaries", although during the Iran crisis and the revelations about renewed diplomatic efforts with Cuba, Walken is still mentioned as a major candidate alongside Vinick, taking a hardline position on both situations. Shortly after, it seems that Vinick was successful in beating Walken, leaving it as a straight fight between Vinick and Reverend Butler. Butler is described as having won "some primaries" in states that Vinick himself he said "he could never had hoped to win", implying that Butler won primaries in the deep south. It is also mentioned that Butler heavily criticized Vinick over abortion during the campaign, but with victory in the final primary, New Jersey, Vinick had won enough delegates to secure himself the nomination.

Vinick knew that his political centrism, especially on the issue of abortion, had the potential of alienating the Republican base and threatening his chances of winning a general election. In order to balance the ticket with a staunchly pro-life Republican as his Vice Presidential nominee, Vinick was ready to select Rev. Butler as his running mate, but Butler turned him down before he could make the offer, citing their differences on the abortion issue. Senate Majority Leader Robert Royce of Pennsylvania put himself forward as a potential candidate for the position, but Vinick turned him down (possibly due to Royce's own moderate record and inability to assist with securing the base). Vinick eventually chose the staunchly pro-life West Virginia Governor Ray Sullivan as his running mate. Sullivan, a former U.S. Attorney with a record of busting white-collar crime and a strong independent and conservative appeal, was considered one of the rising stars in the Republican Party.

Vinick and Sullivan were nominated on the first ballot at the 2006 Republican National Convention at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The newly-minted Republican ticket drew controversy when Governor Sullivan, assuming the "attack-dog" role of Vice Presidential nominees, made comments that seemingly mocked President Bartlet's multiple sclerosis. Indeed, without a Democratic nominee to attack, many of the speakers at the convention made speeches critical of Bartlet's tenure in office. Vinick's acceptance speech, on the other hand, praised President Bartlet, saying that despite their ideological differences, Bartlet had honored the office of President in his two terms, and that he hoped he could do the same if elected. Bartlet, watching the convention on television, was dismayed at what Vinick said, saying he picked up "five million Democratic votes" by rising above the antagonistic tones of the other speakers. Communications Director Toby Ziegler also noted Vinick portrayed himself as more suitable for the Presidency than any of the Democratic candidates without even mentioning their names.

General election campaign

Initial stages

The Presidential campaign began with Arnold Vinick holding a substantial lead of nine points over underdog Matt Santos. Santos had just come out of a closely contested and bitter primary season and a divided and tumultuous convention, while Vinick's convention was described by many (including President Bartlet himself) as being a relatively clean and well-organized affair. Many high-ranking Democrats believed that Santos had little chance to beat Vinick, a moderate Republican from the traditionally Democratic state of California. Both Leo McGarry and Toby Ziegler admitted that Santos and the Democrats had "no chance" of beating Vinick.

Image was an important factor throughout the campaign. Leo McGarry had been known for working behind the scenes and had no history in elected office. Questions about his health and public relations gaffes were a thorn in the side of the Santos campaign in the days just after the Democratic National Convention. Yet, many pundits argued that having McGarry on the ticket, as a former White House Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to the President, was necessary in order to balance Matt Santos' foreign policy inexperience.

The Santos campaign's fear of McGarry's lack of campaigning prowess reached a height in the preparations for the Vice Presidential debate, when McGarry seemed like an ineffective debater. It was later revealed that his poor performance in debate practice was a ploy: McGarry leaked word of his incompetence to the press, allowing press expectations of his performance to fall dramatically. The stratagem worked, for McGarry's debate performance against Ray Sullivan was surprisingly effective and was a victory for the Santos campaign.

Early on in the campaign, Santos was forced to confront his so-called "Mommy Problem", the belief that while he was seen as likable and polled well on social and domestic issues, Vinick dominated the important area of foreign policy. He attempted to diffuse this perception by fulfilling his obligations as a member of the Marine Reserves, allowing the press to constantly run footage of the candidate piloting a fighter jet, and improving Santos' polling on foreign policy issues.

On the other hand, Vinick faced numerous image problems as well. He was seen as too liberal by conservatives, and was much older and less photogenic than the younger Santos. Vinick believed that Santos was a smart campaigner and decided to campaign on border issues to try to take votes from the traditionally Republican home state of Santos, Texas. This was seen by some and implied by Santos to be a direct attempt to attack Santos because of his Latino ethnicity.

Religion was also a large factor in the election through a variety of issues including abortion, intelligent design, and the general piety of the candidates. Vinick was a rarity as a pro-choice Republican and his campaign staff attempted to repair his image among pro-life voters by having his pro-life Vice Presidential candidate, Ray Sullivan, speak on family values issues, including abortion. Vinick also suffered a setback when, after having privately promised the American Christian Assembly that he would appoint only pro-life judges, he stated on "Hardball" that he would apply no litmus test in appointing judges to the bench, angering religious conservatives.

Santos was a devout Catholic but retained a pro-choice stance, opposing the practice of abortion while also opposing further legislative means against it and supporting a woman's right to choose (similar to the views of the fictional President Bartlet and real-world American politicians such as John Kerry and Rudolph Giuliani). At one point a 527 group aired an attack ad against Santos, editing a clip of him to make it seem like he was for abortion on demand, as opposed to Vinick's pro-choice but anti-partial birth and pro-parental consent position (possibly an allusion to the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth in the real-world 2004 Presidential campaign). At the same time, a prominent women's rights group threatened to endorse Vinick because the Senator was pro-choice and his likely victory would effectively end the pro-life plank of the Republican platform, while Santos' position on abortion still called his credibility on the issue into question. Santos was thus being hit from both sides, attacked as another pro-choice Democrat by pro-life interest groups while enduring doubt from liberals about his pro-choice credentials. During the campaign, a Catholic priest also claimed he would deny Santos communion because of his views on abortion (possibly an allusion to a similar incident in the Kerry Campaign in the real-world 2004 Presidential Election.) However Santos was able to do the same to Vinick, attacking him for claiming to be pro-choice, despite his promise to appoint pro-life judges and his refusal to confront his party's pro-life platform.

The issue of intelligent design also became a factor on the campaign trail when Pennsylvania voters began debating the teaching of intelligent design in the state's public schools. Santos disregarded his staff's advice to stay away from the state-specific issue and eloquently affirmed his Catholicism, but also stated his commitment to separation of church and state in schools and explained his view that intelligent design was a religious belief and not a scientific theory. Vinick, on the other hand, remained ambiguous on the issue, further angering religious conservatives.

Presidential debate

At the outset of the first and only Santos-Vinick debate, Vinick proposed that the candidates ignore the rules their campaigns agreed to and have "a real debate" without time limits on speaking. Santos, having shown a prior disdain for heavily structured political debates, readily agreed.

Santos reiterated his commitment to greater federal involvement in public education, opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, supported a moratorium on the federal death penalty, and pledged never to go to war for oil. He also responded to criticism as a "flip-flopper" on such issues as the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the Ways and Means Committee (an example he chose because he was known to both support and vote against CAFTA) by explaining that although he initially supported the agreement, he voted against it when special interest amendments were attached. Santos predictably criticized Senator Vinick for relying too heavily on tax cuts to grow the economy – a standard Democratic criticism of Republicans – but surprised audiences when he said that he "wasn't crazy" about his own health care plan, since it would not provide universal coverage. His follow-up explanation, that his health care plan was not ideal but still the best he thought he could get through Congress, depicted Santos as honest and a realist.

During the debate, Vinick tried to paint Santos as a typical liberal Democrat who would raise taxes to pay for intrusive big-government programs while still leaving the federal budget unbalanced. The Senator laid out a libertarian agenda, proposed tax-deductibility for health insurance costs, explained why he had voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, opposed a moratorium on the federal death penalty, promised to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and declared his strong support for nuclear power. He was heckled by a member of the audience for claiming that Head Start didn't work, but perhaps his most surprising comment and show of blunt honesty was his remark that he would not create any new jobs, saying that in a free society entrepreneurs, not the government, created jobs. Because Santos had just criticized Republican economic policy for relying too heavily on tax cuts, Vinick's continued insistence that tax cuts would improve the economy initially drew hostile laughter from the audience. However, Vinick's explanation behind the theory proved eloquent and logical.

The outcome of the debate was generally seen as either a tie or a slim Santos victory. Public opinion polls favored the latter interpretation; while both candidates received boosts in public support, Santos received a bigger increase than Vinick.

an Andreo accident

The most crucial incident of the campaign was the near nuclear meltdown at the San Andreo power plant in Vinick's home state of California just four weeks from election day. President Bartlet was forced to vent radioactive gases from the plant into the atmosphere and issue a large scale evacuation order for the surrounding area.

Although meltdown was avoided, the event still had a severe effect on the campaign. Vinick was a long-time supporter of nuclear power, a position that was summed up repeatedly on news broadcasts in a clip from the presidential debate where he repeatedly defended nuclear power as being "completely safe."

President Bartlet wanted to visit San Andreo, and standard protocol dictated that the President invite the state's congressional delegation to accompany him. Much to the chagrin of the Santos campaign, this meant that Vinick, as the senior Senator from California, would be able to stand by the President at the accident site. Some believed that this would allow Vinick to be "absolved" by Bartlet and provide him with an opportunity to appear presidential. However, before leaving for California, Senator Vinick publicly blamed the Bartlet Administration for maintaining lax federal regulations. This public slap in the face, combined with a spat with Vinick on Air Force One over the safety of nuclear power, led President Bartlet to refuse to make a statement blaming his own administration for the accident, thus thwarting Vinick's pursuit of absolution.

In addition, any positive publicity Vinick may have gained from the trip soon vanished when "The Washington Post" reported that while in the Senate, Vinick played a key role in furnishing quick federal authorization for the San Andreo nuclear power plant decades earlier. This revelation caused a dramatic turn of public opinion against Vinick, who until then had a rather substantial lock on the electoral college. He managed to regain some ground in a press conference following the near nuclear meltdown in which he provided compelling rationale that nuclear energy was still safe.

The accident however proved to be the turning point of the campaign. States with nuclear plants saw a sudden shift in polling away from Vinick, increasing the number of undecided voters and Santos supporters, bringing several states into contention (including Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, and California [ [ Commentary on "Duck and Cover"] for FootnoteTV by Stephen Lee on January 22, 2006. Retrieved March 19, 2006.] ). In polls done at the national level, both men were locked in a statistical tie of 44 percent.

Election day

Election Day arrived on November 7, 2006. A variety of factors seemed to affect voter turnout and each campaigns' expectations of the results. Rain in Boston looked to deter voter turnout in the key districts Santos needed to carry Massachusetts, while massive field operations were employed to get the Latino vote to the polls for Santos. Strategists in both camps noted various problems with exit polls, citing new laws that might have affected the data collected in unexpected ways while other polls were skewed by disproportionate samples.

The election started off with a pair of surprises: South Carolina, traditionally a Republican state, but one that President Bartlet had won four years before, was called for Santos within minutes of polls closing on the East Coast while West Virginia, a traditionally Democratic state (but one which has recently become strongly Republican and was the home state Vinick's running mate, Ray Sullivan), was called for Vinick. More expected outcomes were had with the blue-leaning swing states of Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania going to Santos and the solid red states of Indiana and Kentucky going to Vinick both by 60% to 40%.

The election was thrown into potential chaos when Leo McGarry, Santos' running mate, died from a sudden heart attack. The polls on the west coast were open for another ninety minutes, creating a difficult situation for both campaigns. The Santos campaign wanted to delay the announcement until after polls on the west coast closed, fearing that undecideds in those states might choose to rely on Vinick's experience in the wake of McGarry's passing (though they realized this option was impossible given the number of people outside the campaign who knew about McGarry's death). Some in the Vinick campaign saw McGarry's death as a potential rationale for challenging the election results if the Senator lost (the logic being that people had voted for Santos "and" McGarry, so the results were tainted by McGarry's death). Vinick vehemently refused to employ this option, finding it unconscionable to use the death of a candidate as a tool for challenging the outcome of an election.

As the night went on, the election became a tit-for-tat, see-saw battle. Vinick captured the lower Midwest and Great Plains, including both Iowa and Ohio by 51% to 49%, although Santos took the reliable presidential bellwether state of Missouri, foreshadowing his eventual victory. With the exception of South Carolina and uncalled Texas, Vinick captured most of the South, including Florida, and Vinick also won the non-contiguous conservative state of Alaska. The red states of the Mountain West all went to Vinick, although Santos took three of the four Southwestern swing states due to Latino support, with only Nevada left in play. Two blue-leaning Pacific states, Washington and Hawaii, also went to Santos. Most of the traditionally Democratic Northeast also went to Santos, including the libertarian-leaning swing state and Bartlet home state of New Hampshire. Although a welcome surprise for Vinick were his victories in the states of Maine and Vermont, both by 52% to 48%, due to strong support from libertarian and independent voters in these states. Finally, a big blow was dealt when Texas was called for Santos, by 52% to 48%, and it looked as if the Democrats were headed towards a surprise runaway victory. Indeed, Vinick believed a Santos win in California was imminent, and was ready to concede the election as soon as it was announced.

That notion was quickly dispelled when California went for native son Vinick by a mere 80,000 votes, giving him 266 electoral votes to Santos' 260 putting Vinick just 4 electoral votes short of victory, with only Oregon (7 electoral votes) and Nevada (5 electoral votes) left in play. While only one of these two states would give Vinick the presidency, Santos would need to win both. Oregon was first, going into the Santos column by just 2,000 votes and making the electoral college count 267 for Santos and 266 for Vinick. That left Nevada as a "winner-take-all" for either side, a strange situation since Santos had conceded Nevada to Vinick early on in the race, while Vinick's campaign had gutted their Nevada operations to focus on California.

Finally at 5:45 AM EST on Wednesday November 8, 2006, Nevada was called for Santos, handing him both the election and the presidency. Vinick chose to concede the election rather than contest the slim margin of defeat in the Silver State (just 30,000 votes) and called Santos to congratulate him on his victory. Once the absentee ballots were counted, Santos' margin of victory in Nevada was announced as 70,000 votes.

Election results

As of the end of the second part of the episode "Election Day, " the following states have been called by the major TV networks, giving Santos a 272-266 victory over Vinick:

The actual popular vote totals were never specified on the show, but it can be clearly heard twice that Vinick was winning the popular vote by around a million votes on the TV coverage. Vinick is confirmed to have won the popular vote in the episode "The Last Hurrah" although no margin or total was given. On a commentary for season seven, John Wells states the popular vote numbers were written into the script and explains how they forgot to add them to the show and confirms that Vinick won the popular vote by over a million votes.


The Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives with a four-seat 221-214 majority (first Democratic House Majority since 1996 in "The West Wing" canon). One Democratic loss was Bartlet's son-in-law, Doug Westin, who lost by a double digit margin for the New Hampshire 1st CD House seat. This was much to the outgoing President's pleasure after it was revealed prior to the election that Westin was having an affair.

The Republicans kept control of the Senate, due to Senators Fuller (D-Maine) and McKenna (D-Pennsylvania) losing their seats. That exact Republican majority is not clearly stated. The loss of the two Democrats being attributed to the loss of the Senate suggests a two seat Republican majority (52-48) and Josh describes the Republican majority as "movable". But it was also stated that to confirm a new Vice President in the Senate, they would need at least five Republicans to break ranks. Given the lack of a VP to cast a tie-breaking vote, the Democrats would therefore need 51 for a majority, probably meaning that the Democrats have 46 Senators and the Republicans have 54.

Once it was clear that the Democrats had taken back the House, a hotly contested race for the speakership began. The initial favorite was House Democratic Leader Tim Fields, a liberal Texas Congressman who was an old friend of President-Elect Santos. But Mark B. Sellner, a more moderate congressman who voted with the Republicans on school vouchers and tort reform, rapidly gained support due to perceptions that Fields was too liberal and would be a "lackey" for the Santos White House. A third candidate, Jim Marino (D-Ohio), ran to make a point on behalf of the deficit hawks, but had little support. Sellner was eventually successful in winning the race, as he reflected the opinions of the caucus and was committed to protecting the party's small majority.

Parallels to the real-life 2008 election

Parallels between the West Wing's fictional 2006 election and the real-life 2008 U.S. presidential election have been noted by BBC News Magazine. [cite web|url=|title=Haven't we seen this election before?|author=Ballard, Janette|publisher=BBC News|date=2008-09-15|accessdate=2008-09-15] The article draws attention to the similarity between real-life Barack Obama and the fictional Santos, whose character is said to have been developed using characteristics of Obama, and the fictional maverick Vinick who shares characteristics of the real-life John McCain. These similarities include Santos' inspirational rhetoric, charisma, ethnically diverse background and political inexperience; Vinick's long Senate service, "maverick" image, and Western base; and the lengthy and heated Democratic primary process, with both third-place candidates, John Hoynes and John Edwards, disgraced by sex scandals, and with the second-place candidates, Bob Russell and Hillary Clinton, running as experienced figures closely connected to the previous Democratic administration.

These parallels have been heightened by the candidates' choices of vice presidential candidates: as his running mate, Barack Obama chose an experienced, Roman Catholic Democrat (Joe Biden, as compared to Leo McGarry), whereas John McCain chose a populist, corruption-fighting, socially conservative small-state governor (Sarah Palin, as compared to Ray Sullivan.)

ee also

*"The West Wing"
**Arnold Vinick
**Matt Santos
*The West Wing presidential election, 2002
*U.S. presidential primary
*U.S. presidential nominating convention
*U.S. presidential election debates


External links

* [ Official Campaign Website]
* [ Santa Paula for Vinick]
* [ Candidate analysis]

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