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Transition: The Making of Screen Presidents

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Presidents in the Movies

Part of the book series: The Evolving American Presidency Series ((EAP))

Abstract

As the 2008 presidential primary election season took off, the campaign for the Democratic Party nomination attracted even more attention than usual. With Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York as frontrunners, it appeared likely to produce an African American or female nominee, either of whom would be a historic first. Despite this, the contest also generated a feeling of déjà vu among pundits and the public alike. Here was an election that seemed very familiar, but this sense of recall did not emanate from another time in American history. This was not a rerun of any previous presidential contest. Instead, the historical antecedent came from television, specifically the seventh and final season of the acclaimed NBC political drama The West Wing. In this, the aspiring but largely inexperienced Latino congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) beat Vice President Bob Russell (Gary Cole) to the Democratic nomination and went on to be elected president by a narrow margin over a moderate Republican from the West, Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda).

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Notes

  1. Myron Levine, “The Transformed Presidency,” in Peter C. Rollins and John E. O’Connor, eds., Hollywood’s White House: The American Presidency in Film and History (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), 351.

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© 2011 Iwan W. Morgan

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Scott, I. (2011). Transition: The Making of Screen Presidents. In: Morgan, I.W. (eds) Presidents in the Movies. The Evolving American Presidency Series. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230117112_2

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