Written by: Eli Attie, Directed by: Christopher Misiano
Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman,
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos
and Teri Polo as his wife
NBC Photo: Mitch Haddad
- Takes Place: Five days before the New Hampshire Primary
- Broadcast: February 16, 2005
- Congressman Santos is trying to change the rules for the last debate in New Hampshire before the primary election. He wants a real debate. Elsewhere, Will makes it clear the Santos rule changes would not be good for the Russell campaign. But everyone is surprised when the debate is limited to Russell and Hoynes. It is not in Russell's interest to debate Hoynes individually since Hoynes is far more knowledgeable and intelligent. So, Russell tries to get the field back but Santos is still pushing for rules that allow for a full debate and soon it is back to a two man debate. So Josh and Santos decide to rent another hall and invite all the candidates and to counter the huge ad buys of the main candidates, Josh comes up with a plan.
- "We can't afford a huge glitzy ad buy so we run something feisty, funny, out-of-the-box. Turns our one minute of ad time into a national sensation."
A campaign assistant suggests, "Santos on ice skates wearing a goalie outfit pledging to defend America."
"Closer to the box than that."
"So, what's the message?" asks a second campaign assistant.
"How about our exclusion from the debates. Let's try that."
"So, what do we do? Film chicken coops and say they're too chicken to debate us?"
"I want two volunteers. I want them in giant chicken suits. I want them in my office first thing in the morning."
- Without telling Josh, Santos has asked Amy to help him prep for the debate he isn't in. After learning that she is helping some of their competitors as well, Josh fires her, but before that happens, one of his chickens goes up to Russell and asks him if he is too chicken to debate the full field. Donna pulls the chicken aside and lectures him,
- "Do you realize how pathetic this is? Do your parents know you're doing this? Pakistan could be arming Nigeria... and you're pulling shaving cream and balloon style pranks... Now go dip your beak in someone else's feed." She is so intent that she doesn't notice she is being filmed. When she turns around and sees the cameras, she says, without hope, "Tell me you're not going to use that."
- Josh has a couple more possibilities including a court case that Santos refuses to allow to go forward and an attack commercial about Russell and Hoynes being too chicken to debate the other candidates which Santos also doesn't like. He thought the attack ads by the other candidates were horrible. He won't join them on that level. Josh has rented a hall for an alternate debate and has arranged for a minute of ad time. But Santos is sick of not discussing issues. He tells one of his assistants,
- "Hey, did you happen to catch the New Jersey Senate debate last week? ...Someone asked about the situation in Freedonia and Barber said that he was studying it. Freedonia's fake. It's from a Marx Brothers movie. And there was no follow up, no cross examination. The bigger story in the papers the next day was about how he slammed his opponents for being 'too liberal'. You get into this thinking to yourself that you're going to play by your own rules. And then bit by bit you chip away at them until you can't even name the game." Santos continues on and then comes to a decision about the minute of air time they have purchased. "I'm going to do it live."
- They get to the studio just in time to go on and Santos sits and begins his minute,
- "Good evening. I'm running for President and if you don't know know who I am, I wouldn't be surprised. I've been shut out of tomorrow night's debate for suggesting that it actually be a debate and this is the only ad I can afford. I got in this to improve a broken school system, to fix entitlement because they're going bankrupt, to expand health coverage because it will save money if fewer people in up in emergency rooms. What I found is that Presidential campaigns aren't about these things. They're about clawing your opponents' eyes out as long as you don't get tagged for it. So how about this: I will never say anything about my opponents or anything about anything without saying it myself, right into the camera. You might not get to hear much of me but when you do, you'll know I stand by it. I'm Matt Santos and you better believe I approve this ad." Josh is impressed. And so it turns out are others --- suddenly people are interested in this campaign and want to contribute.
- And at the Russell campaign, the Vice President wants to go on as before but Donna argues with him and he ends of joining the alternative debate in the hall Santos has rented. Then Hoynes has to join them all there. Soon Santos is calling the shots. Josh tries to apologize for trying to turn this into a campaign like the others but Santos knows he couldn't have done any of this without Josh.