The Ides of March
Directed by George Clooney, the campaign managers for a liberal governor running for President are involved in intrigues that change their strategies and force the candidate to make choices he does not want to make.
Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) walks to a microphone in a dark theater and says he has no religion but the Constitution of the United States of America. He whistles and makes the mic feedback. He has the lights turned on. Only a few people are in the audience during this rehearsal. A man at a table rises before him. He is told to go on and talks casually about how if he is not religious enough for them, they don’t have to vote for him. He asks if they are going to put risers under the podiums. He thanks them and says he will see them in a few hours.
In Ohio people are campaigning for Morris and Pullman. A reporter says that Morris is leading, but a win in Ohio could turn it around for Pullman.
In a debate Pullman asks Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) of Pennsylvania about his religion. He says he is not a Christian or an atheist. He believes in the Constitution. He says they should be judged as a country by how they take care of people who cannot take care of themselves. That is his religion. He tells them if they think he is not religious enough or experienced enough, then don’t vote for him. He can’t change those things to get elected. He asks if this is a Democratic debate or the general election; but Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell) says he will be asked about his religion in the general election. People applaud at the end of the debate. In the wings Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Steve Meyers tell Morris that he hit a home run. Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) asks if the Democrats have ever nominated an atheist before, and Paul says they have nominated a jackass before. Duffy says that Paul must have written those words; but Paul says that Morris has the brains while he has the balls. Duffy says he has the brains now too.
At a restaurant Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) asks Paul what will happen on the 15th. Steve says Morris will win. Ida says he will eke it out. Paul predicts he will win by nine, but it is not a sure thing. He says in the last few years 73 Democrats ran for President, and only three won. He says Morris was decorated for the first Gulf War, protested the second, and left his state with a balanced budget and the fourth highest education rate. He believes the Republicans have no one who can touch him. He leaves for the bathroom. Ida asks where Morris is going, and she guesses he is going to North Carolina. He says she loves him because he gives her scoops. She says he buys into all this crap about taking back the country. He says he is not naïve because he has worked on more campaigns than most people do by the time they are forty. He says he is the one and admits that he has drunk the Kool-Aid. He does not care about his leading in the polls, but he says he is the only one who is going to make a difference in people’s lives. He says he has to win, and she asks what will happen if he doesn’t. She says it won’t matter one bit to the everyday lives of people who work. She says if his boy wins, he gets a job in the White House; if he loses, he returns to K Street as a consultant. She says he used to know that before he became a believer. She says Mike Morris is a politician. He is a nice guy, but he will let him down sooner or later.
Paul and Ida come out on the street, and he tells her off the record that they have a meeting at Senator Thompson’s house tomorrow and that he believes he will endorse him. She says that is huge. He says he has 365 pledged delegates who travel with him, and this will put them over the top. She says he said publicly that he will not endorse anyone. Paul says they all say that until you get them alone in a room.
Inside the Ohio for Morris campaign office Ben Harpen (Max Minghella) holds up a box and says these are their new cell phones that are not to be used for personal calls. If they lose them, the DNC will come to their house. Steve watches Morris on TV saying that they need to deal with their enemies without force if they can. He says the answer to extremism is not extremism. He asks a young man with long hair and a beard where he got this, and he says it was from a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania. Steve is grateful it was not from overseas. He says the Republicans will use it against him in the general election, and they don’t need to brag about it. Steve says he is Neville Chamberlain and wants to be their commander-in-chief. Ben says it will come out, but Steve says it will not come out by them. Steve asks Ben if it is true that Pullman has investments in diamond mines in Liberia. Ben says they are still checking it. Steve says he wants to hear him denying it whether it is true or not. If it is true, he wants them to find out. He says it is a win-win. He says he needs new 30- and 60-second spots, and they can show them in the staff meeting today.
In his office blonde Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) gives Steve a folder and says Ben wants him to sign off on it. He tells her it is negative shit that will be in the papers tomorrow. He says it is transportation numbers that he will have to spin hard to make stick. She says he is good at that. He asks if she is a Cincinnati Bearcat, but she says no; she worked with him in Iowa. He asks if she changed her hair, and she says no. She is a lowly intern, and he admits he is a big man on campus. She says the worker bees have a better bar, and he should come by some time. He says he may. She says tonight is good because it is quiet on Tuesdays. She says she has her number programmed in his new phone under “Mary,” but her name is Molly.
In a mansion Paul tells Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) that the Republicans will not show up to vote for Pullman. Thompson asks if Morris is going to get the independents, and Paul says yes. He tells Thompson that they need him, his delegates, and his fundraising. He says his endorsement a week before Ohio could win it for them. A woman serves a drink, and Thompson asks her for the ice bucket.
At a campaign meeting Morris asks Steve if this is Paul or him, and Steve says that Paul agrees. Morris asks for his op-ed piece on national service; it is easier for him to work off that. An aid hands him his laptop, but Morris asks for it in hard copy, and Molly goes to get it. Steve says his national service is not polling well, but Morris says he is not going to play that game with him. Morris says they are going to help people get an education, help national unity, teach people a trade, and get them out of debt for their college loans. Steve says that is all good; but if he is going to do it, he should make it mandatory, not voluntary. Morris says that will poll well. Steve says everyone gives two years of service after high school to his country in the military or the peace corps or planting trees or whatever. Then their college education is paid for. Morris says they do all that in his plan. Steve says he does not do it all the way. Steve says the beauty of it is that everyone past the age of eligibility will be for it. All the others are too young and can’t vote. Workers laugh. Morris tells him to work it into a stump speech, and then he will rewrite it in his own words. Steve says that Morris has Charlie Rose at six. He asks if Paul is going, and Steve says no; but he and Ben will take him.
Steve walks into his office and answers the phone. Tom Duffy is calling, and Steve closes his door. Tom wants to sit down with him and says it is important. Steve says he should be calling Paul. Tom asks him for five minutes, and Steve says he can’t be talking to him. Tom says he will be at the sports bar, and Steve says he can’t come. Tom says there won’t be anybody there, and he wants to show him something. Steve leaves a message for Paul to call him back on something important.
At the bar Tom says that Steve is working for the wrong man, but he believes the opposite. Tom says that Steve has charm that draws people in. Reporters love him, even the ones who hate him. He says he plays them all like pieces on a chessboard and makes it look effortless. They both know how hard it is. He says people are scared of him because they don’t know how he does it. He has the most valuable thing in this business which is to win people’s respect by changing their fear into love. Tom says he wants Steve to work for Pullman. Steve says he must be kidding. Tom says no. He says Morris is going to lose Ohio even though they have a 6 point lead in the polls among Democrats. Steve says it is eight. Tom says it doesn’t matter because Ohio is an open primary, and Republicans and Independents can vote for a Democrat. Steve asks if he thinks they love Pullman who is a pro-choice and tax-and-spend liberal. Tom says they hate him, but they think they can beat him but probably not Morris. Tom says tomorrow he will see a right-wing blitz starting a get-out-the-vote campaign. Every conservative in Ohio is going to line up around the block to vote for Pullman. He says Ohio is gone, and tomorrow morning everyone will know. He wants Steve to handle the fall-out in the press. Tom says they have Thompson in the bag too. Steve says he knows that is not true, but Tom says they promised him secretary of State. Ohio is over and has been for weeks. Now they have Thompson’s delegates. He is thinking ahead, and that is why he wants him. Steve says he can’t do it. Tom says he can bring him in at the top, and he does not want an answer now. Steve admits he has played dirty, but he does not have to do that anymore; he has Morris. Tom says it is about the democratic process. Steve says this is the kind of shit the Republicans pull. Tom agrees with that and says it is about time they learn how to do it too. He says the Republicans are meaner and tougher and more disciplined. Tom says he has been doing this for 25 years, and he has seen too many Democrats bite the dust because they would not get down in the mud with the elephants. Tom gets up, and Steve says that Paul is his friend. Tom asks if he wants to work for his friend or for the President, and he tells him to think about it and leaves.
Steve is on the phone with Paul and asks about Thompson. Paul says he wants something, but they will be fine. He asks what is so important, and Steve says nothing; he figured it out. Paul says he will see him tomorrow night.
A woman is putting make-up on Morris who asks Steve if he is still single, and he says he is married to the campaign. Ben says the Wall Street Journal polls shows that Pullman dropped a point. Ben says he is married to the campaign too. Steve tells Ben to make sure that Charlie Rose gets those numbers before the show, and he wants a copy of the show.
Charlie Rose (himself) is interviewing Morris who says he would not do it, but he does not believe that the government should tell a woman what to do with her body. Rose says he is against the death penalty, and Morris says it is because of what it says about their society. Rose asks what he would do if his wife was murdered, and Morris says he would find him and kill him. Rose says he would impose his own death penalty. Morris says it is a crime for which he would happily go to jail. Rose asks then why not let society do it. Morris says society has to be better than the individual. If he did that, he would be wrong. Rose asks about guns, and Morris asks if it is time for a commercial. Rose says this is public television and that they don’t have any commercials. They laugh.
At a table in a bar Molly tells Steve she is going to California for super Tuesday. He says he had to go to New York. She says they need more help over there. He asks her why politics, and she says the pay is so good. She says her father is Jack Stearns, and he says he is a good guy; but she says he is an asshole. She says he is his boss as head of the DNC, but he says he works for Morris. If Morris wins, he will be her dad’s boss. He tells her not to tell her dad a lot of things. She says never. Tomorrow she is showing new interns how to make robo-calls because she is experienced. He says he is thirty, and she says she is twenty. She asks if she is too young for him to fuck her. He says where they are in Kentucky it is frowned upon, but across the river in Ohio where his hotel room is the laws are lax. He says he took a cab, and she says she has the keys to the campaign bus.
The Morris bus is parked in front of a hotel. On television Chris Matthews is reporting the Russ Limbaugh chaos theory that has Republicans voting for a Democrat they think they can beat in the general election. He says Tom Duffy is glad to be getting votes for Pullman from right-wingers. Tom says they think the Senator will win Ohio. On the bed Steve is getting dressed and asks on the phone when Paul will get in. Steve says she has to get some internal polling on the independents and the wing-nuts. Molly asks if he wants her to go and says he sounds busy. He tells her to hold on and says it was the cleaning lady. He asks about the Wall Street Journal and tells them to get Adler on the line and tell him that the race is closer than the polling. He says he will take care of it. He hangs up, and she says he called her the cleaning lady. He asks if she is angry about that, and she says no. She sees her father on television and tells him to look. He says the voters will decide, and Steve agrees that he is an asshole. She says she will tell him he said that. She asks what he wanted to talk to her about, and he says he wants to be clear. She says she will not tell anybody about last night, and he says that would be great. She says it would not look good if he screwed an intern. He says it is not like that; he did not get drunk. He likes her, but he does not want there to be any expectations. He says he was being polite. She says he was trying to pick her up, and he was being forward. He says she was being forward too. She says she had been wanting to fuck him for a while. He says she is very mature, and she kisses him.
On the phone Steve learns from Paul that nothing happened with Thompson. Steve says he is running the numbers.
On a plane they experience turbulence, and Steve says they will be fine. He believes nothing bad happens when you are doing the right thing; but Morris says Roberto Clemente was killed on a humanitarian mission. Steve says they are doing great. Morris says Paul tells him great, but he asks Steve for the truth. He says they are solid, and Morris calls him Paul. Steve says Paul will say or do anything to win, but he has to believe in the cause. Morris says he may be out of work. Steve says he will work for Morris who says that gives him eight years at most.
Morris tells an audience that he has a normal marriage which means that when they disagree, she wins. He says they agree that they have to leave this planet better. He says the richest people in this country do not pay their fair share. When they are asked to, they cry socialism or refer to redistributing wealth. They scare everyone, and they run and hide. For the record his campaign is opposed to the distribution of wealth to the richest Americans by our government. He will run on that.
Steve tells Paul that he met with Tom Duffy, and he wants to hire him. He mentions the problems and says they offered Thompson secretary of State.
Morris says they can fight the war on terror by not needing their oil anymore. He says they don’t have to bomb anyone or invade anyone.
Paul says his blood pressure is off the chart now, and Steve says he is sorry. Paul says he gave away their game plan to Thompson because he did not tell him about this. Steve says he thought Paul had Thompson in the bag.
Morris says that if he takes office ten years later no new car will be sold with an internal combustion engine. He says they will start the next technological revolution, and they will lead the world again like they used to.
Paul tells Steve that they will talk to Morris after the speech and tell him that if he does not give Thompson a cabinet position, he will not get the nomination. Steve asks what he will do, and Paul says he does not know; but he tells him to get them a room and walks off.
Molly gets some papers and takes them to Ben.
Morris, Paul, and Steve are sitting in a large empty room. Morris asks about the numbers, and Steve says he may lose Ohio by 3 or 4 points. Paul says no one knows. He suggests they quit in Ohio and go on to North Carolina. Morris says they will kill them, but Paul says not if he gets Thompson’s endorsement. Morris says he is not going to do it. He asks what he wants, and Steve tells him secretary of State. Morris says he will not give it to a guy who wants to cut the top ten floors off the United Nations. Morris tells Paul he said he was not going to make those deals. Paul says if Pullman win Ohio and get those delegates, he will be in the lead Morris can’t beat. If Morris takes North Carolina and his state of Pennsylvania, then he will win. If he gets Thompson’s endorsement, the race is over. Morris says he respects his opinion, but he will never do it. He suggests they find a way for him to win Ohio.
In the campaign office Molly tells Ben that Pullman booked every car company in northern Ohio. Ben tells Steve that the independents aren’t biting, but the Republicans are. On the phone Paul is saying they are the underdog in Ohio. He asks if he ever said they had Ohio locked.
At night on the campaign bus Morris tells his wife Cindy Morris (Jennifer Ehle) that this will be the greatest speech ever made on hydrogen power. She says Mitchell’s wife wants him to speak to the Daughters of the American Revolution. He asks who Mitchell is, and she says he is the Congressman from the first district. He says he has a bad job and asks if she could imagine doing this every two years. She says no. She suggests they do it just one more time, and he agrees for four more years. She asks if he will win Ohio and says if he took Thompson’s delegates, the race would be over. He asks if Paul is working on her, and she smiles and says it was Steve. He says they are good. She asks if Thompson is worse than Pullman, and he says he is. He says he draws lines in the sand, and then he has to move them. He said he was not going to do fundraisers, union deals, and negative ads; but he can’t do it on this one. He says she can tell Mrs. Mitchell he will make the luncheon so they can pat him on the head. She says he has great hair.
Morris is answering questions from voters and says they have changed gay marriage from a religious to a civil rights issue. He says they used to ban interracial marriages, and women couldn’t vote. Ben tells Steve it went well.
On the bus Steve gets an email asking if he needs a cleaning lady. He looks back at Molly and smiles.
Steve is making love to Molly while the Morris town meeting is playing on the TV. He looks at the TV, and they laugh. Later in bed he is working on his laptop while she sleeps. He answers her cell phone, and a man says “Molly” and hangs up. He tells her that her phone rang and asks who would be calling her at 2:30 in the morning. She asks to see the number, and he says he is calling him. She says it is not funny and demands he give her the phone. He is calling the number and walks around. She tells him to hang up. He asks her why the Governor is calling her, and she says she is in trouble. He asks what is going on. She explains she took the pole numbers to him, and they talked a long time. He closed the door. She says she was not that drunk and that it happened only once. No one saw her. He asks why he is calling her, and she says she called him first. She did not know where else to go, and she needed $900. She says she can’t go to her dad because they are Catholic. She is crying asks what she should do.
Steve walks on the street and goes in the campaign office. He sees Molly and goes into his office. He summons Ben and asks what their limit is on petty cash. Ben says $500, and Steve says he needs it. He tells him not to put it on the books, and he refuses to explain. Ben goes out, and Steve calls Molly in. He writes on a paper and gives it to her, telling her to meet him at noon. She says okay, and he rips it up and says that is all.
Steve withdraws cash at a bank. While walking on the street he talks on the phone. Ida says he met with Duffy. They meet in a hallway, and she asks what happened with Duffy. He says she is supposed to be his friend, and she asks if that is what he thinks. She admits he has given her a lot but tells him to get real. She says he only treats her well because she writes for The Times. She asks again, and he refuses to answer and walks away. She asks what happened with Paul and Thompson. He comes back and tells her to keep her voice down. He tells her this could get him fired. She says she is giving him a choice and will give him until 3 tomorrow afternoon to make up his mind. She walks away.
On a pay phone Steve tells Duffy that he leaked it, but Tom says he does not know what he is talking about. Steve says that Horowicz is threatening to release the story that they met. Tom asks how she found out. They both say they did not leak it. They argue, and each says they did not tell anyone. Tom suggests they stonewall her because she has nothing. Steve says she is blackmailing him to find out about Thompson. Duffy advises him to tell her what she wants to know. Steve says he would have to tell her that he is endorsing Pullman. Tom says to tell her because he can handle it. Steve says it will make Paul look like a fool. Tom says he will anyway. Steve says he can’t do it. Tom says he is on a sinking ship and to jump and come over to his side. Steve says he has to go and hangs up.
Molly meets Steve in a dark stairwell. He says he got almost $1,800, and she is to make the appointment today from a pay phone. He will take her to the clinic and pick her up and no one else. She agrees. He tells her to use the rest of the money to buy a ticket home. They can’t use her in the next weeks with the situation here. She asks if she can be there and says she won’t tell anyone. He says she screwed up, and she says they both screwed up. He says he has a responsibility to him. She says she could go to North Carolina and work on the campaign. He says she has to wake up because this is the big leagues. When you make a big mistake, you lose the right to play. He tells her to tell him when and where they have to go.
At night in a room Ben reads something on his computer from The Times about Duffy who said that the less experienced candidate almost always wins in presidential races. Steve sees a message from Molly to go at noon.
Steve is waiting in a car, and Molly comes out of a building. He sees that Ida is calling him. Molly gets in his car. He drives across a bridge in silence. He takes her to a women’s clinic in Cincinnati. She checks in at a desk, and they sit down to wait. He tells her to call him when he can leave. She says she hates this. He says he is going to come back, and it is all going to be over. He gets up, kisses her forehead, and goes out.
Paul gets off his bed while on the phone to answer the door. Steve comes in. Paul gets off the phone and says the Governor is up to speed on everything. Steve asks how he took it, and Paul says better than he thought he would. Paul says he won’t take Thompson’s endorsement. Steve says he has to tell him something. Paul sits down, and Ben is working on his laptop. Steve says that Ida knows that he met with Duffy. He does not know how she knows and says she tried to blackmail him. She will tell the story unless Paul tells her the details of his meeting with Thompson. Paul says it is going to hit the papers. Paul admits that he leaked it to Ida. Ben gets up and goes in the bedroom. Paul says he made a deal. Steve says she is going to leak the story and asks how he could do that to the campaign. Paul says the campaign will survive. Steve asks why he did it to him, and Paul says it makes it easier to let him go. He asks why he met with Duffy, and Steve admits he made a stupid mistake. Paul says he made a choice. When he called him about something important, Steve told him to forget about it. Paul asks why he made that choice, and Steve says he did not think it was important. Paul does not buy that and says Steve went because he felt, curious, flattered, and special. He asks if it made him feel big because Duffy talked to Steve instead of to him. Paul tells about the first campaign he ever ran for a state senate seat in Kentucky with no money. Another candidate from another district called him up and asked him to work for him because Sam had no chance. Paul says he was different than Steve because told Sam about it, and Sam said he could leave. Paul says he stayed with Sam, and he lost; but later he ran for governor and asked Paul to run his campaign, and they won. Twenty years later he is where he is now. Paul says he values loyalty, and without it you are nothing. In politics it is the only currency you can count on, and that is why he is letting him go. It is not because he is not good enough or because he does not like him; but he values trust over skill. He does not trust Steve anymore. Steve says it does not matter whether he trusts him but whether the Governor does. Paul says the Governor already knows, and he agrees it is the right thing to do. Steve realizes this. Paul advises him to get a good night of sleep because he is going to be pounded with calls from the press in the morning.
Molly is given two bottles of pills.
Steve drives his car.
Molly waits and then walks on the street. She sits in a coffee shop.
Steve returns to the women’s clinic.
Molly gets out of a taxi at her hotel. She goes into her room, and Ben tells her it was a wild day. He says Steve is off the campaign over something about loyalty and Steven doubling down with Duffy. He was in the room when Paul fired Steve and later told Ben that he was taking over for him. He says that Paul humiliated Steve. Ben tells Molly that he is going to run the campaign under Paul. He says Steve is going to Duffy, and he jumped three years ahead. He says in the morning they are starting damage control, and he says Steve is going ape-shit, taking everyone down on his way out. Ben says he has to take a call and asks if she needs anything. She says no, and he goes out.
Steve goes into the Pullman campaign office and asks for Duffy. They meet in a private room. Steve says he is in and that he is coming to work for him. Duffy says a reporter from Roll Call called. Steve says he knows who leaked it and says it was Paul because he told him about it. He felt he should. Duffy says he worked with Paul, and he knows he gets paranoid. Steve says he quit, but Duffy tells him not to lie. Steve says he will give him Morris and his strategy. Duffy says Paul already told that to Thompson. Steve asks what if he has something else. Duffy asks if he would do that to Morris, and Steve says yes. Duffy says revenge makes people unpredictable. He cannot have someone who is unpredictable. He says if he had left Morris before the story broke in a clean break, they could control that. Paul fired him, and now he wants to work for him. Duffy says that makes it look like he is picking up the scraps, and it puts Morris in the driver’s seat. Steve says he has something big that will put Morris down. Duffy asks what it is. Steve asks for the job. Duffy laughs and says not like that. He tells him to take a long vacation. He says Steve is a smart guy. He says what he told him the other day is true, but maybe politics is not for him. Steve says politics is his life. Duffy tells him to do himself a favor by getting out now while he still can. He advises him to do something that will make him happy. If he stays in this business long enough, he will get jaded and cynical. Steve says like him, and Duffy says yes. Steve asks if he knew that he was going to tell Paul. Duffy says he did not know, though he thought he might. Steve says he knew he would tell him and that Paul would fire him. Duffy says Paul is big on loyalty. Steve tells Tom that he was never going to hire him. Tom tells him to put himself in his place. Your opponent has the best media mind in the country working for him. He says you are either going to hire him for yourself, or you are going to work it so that the other team can’t use him either. This was a win-win situation for him. Tom says he knew he had won as soon as Steve sat down with him. Steve says this is his life. Tom says this does not give him pleasure, and he is sorry for him. He tells him to take care of himself and leaves the room.
Steve is driving and parks his car. He walks in the hallway of a hotel and knocks on a door. He goes in and sees Molly on the floor. A man on a phone says she has not been breathing for fifteen minutes. The man asks if he knows her and says she is gone. Steve sees the two pill bottles on the table. He sees her cell phone on the bed.
Steve gets back in his car and has her cell phone. He plays her message on his phone. He hears her very upset begging him to pick up the phone.
On television CNN reports that it was a lethal overdose, and there will be a full investigation. Paul is watching.
By the Ohio River Steve sits down on a bench next to Thompson who says he wants to be on the ticket. They need his delegates, and he expects to hear from him by noon tomorrow, or he will endorse Pullman for the cabinet seat. He asks Steve if he wants to talk about anything else and then leaves.
At a press conference Morris says their hearts go out to her family. He says they believe it was an accidental overdose. He says she was part of their family. He is asked if he knew her, and he says he did but not well. Someone asks how long she was an intern, and Paul says it was about four weeks. Morris looks at his phone which says that Molly is calling.
Steve realizes he is not answering. He walks into the bar and goes into the kitchen. Morris says he has something he wants to talk to him about. Steve says he will talk, and Morris will listen. Steve says that starting tomorrow there are going to be changes in his campaign. He says that Paul is out, and he is in. Steve will be the senior campaign manager and will draft a statement; he can put his own words in it. Morris asks why he would do that. Steve says he will do it because he wants to win. He broke the only rule in politics. He wants to be President. He can start a war, lie, or cheat, but he can’t fuck the interns. They will get you for that. Morris asks what he thinks he has. Steve says a pregnant girl needed cash for an abortion. Morris asks if he gave her money and says maybe she needed it for something else. Steve asks if that is his best play. Morris says he needs a job that bad and comes to him with his dick in his hand. He says he has nothing. Steve says he is right, that there is nothing. Yet he is standing there. Morris tells him to go home. Steve says she left a note. Morris asks how he knows. Steve says he was cleaning up her mess. He took her phone, and he found a note. Morris says he thought it was an accident. Steve asks him to tell him because he was the last person she called. The note says she was pregnant and got an abortion, but she does not want to hurt him. Morris asks why she would leave a note that could only do that. Steve says she is twenty. Morris asks what he wants, and Steve says Paul is gone. Steve says he will set up a meeting with Thompson, and he promises him the ticket, and he gives him 356 pledged delegates. He takes office and makes right so many things they both believe in. Morris says he does not believe in extortion and tying himself to Steve for the next eight years. Steve says four years. Morris asks what he was doing in her room. Steve says he was housekeeping before Morris made page one. Morris says he was fired. Steve says he was fixing the situation. He got a call from someone in the hotel to help. Morris says he was off the campaign, and he thought it was important to fix things. Morris says it was his voice that night on the phone because Steve was fucking her. Steve says he lent her money and gave her a ride. Morris says there is no note, and he asks him to show it to him. Steve says he did not bring it because that is how people get hurt. Morris says Steve is not wearing a wire because everything he suggested is illegal, and he would not fare well in prison. Morris says Steve was fucking her, and she told him; but there are no records of their conversations. Since she had an abortion, there is no DNA evidence. He says it is Steve’s word against his, the word of a fired, disgruntled employee against that of a sitting governor. Steve says it is his call.
Paul is getting a haircut. He comes out to the street and walks to a black car. Morris asks if he has a minute, and Paul gets in the car. After a long pause Paul gets out of the car.
On television Chris Matthews reports the change in the campaign. Paul says that Stephen is very capable and smart.
In a church at the funeral Jack Stearns (Gregory Itzin) speaks that there is no greater grief than to lose a child. He says she was smart and pretty and so young. He does not accept God’s judgment because she made the world better.
Outside Paul walks away and tells Steve he should hire Jack for a speechwriter. Steve asks if he wants to see him, but Paul says he is a friend of the family and got her the internship. Paul asks if the Governor could not make the flight. Steve says he is meeting with Thompson. Paul says Steve is all grown up, and Steve says he learned from the best. Paul says that one day they can have a beer, and he can tell him what he had on the Governor that put him out. Steve asks how he knows he did not have something on Paul. He smiles and tells Steve he had better get going because he has a campaign to run. Steve asks Paul if he is going to the consulting firm on K Street. Paul says it is a million a year and no one to fuck you over. Paul walks away. Steve says it sounds relaxing and gets in his car.
At a large rally Senator Thompson introduces Morris as the next president of the United States. Thompson says they are a united Democratic Party, and he strongly urges his 365 delegates to throw their support to the Governor and get on to the business of the White House. He asks for God to bless them and the United States. Morris thanks Thompson and his Republican constituents. He says he is humbled. He says either they are going to move forward, or they will fall back. Either they are going to lead with new technology, or they are going to bury their heads in the sands of Saudi Arabia and the sands of Iraq. Either they are going to let greed and corruption ruin their industries and their shorelines, or they are going to take back their country.
Steve walks into a media room, and Ben hands him a small packet. A new intern introduces herself to Ben.
Steve meets Ida in a hallway. She says he is making her look bad. She filed the story that said he was off the campaign and that Thompson was going with Pullman. He says you can’t believe everything you read. She is giving him an opportunity to comment on her next story. He delivered Thompson who brought the 365 delegates and the nomination, and all he asked for was Paul’s job. She asks if he is confirming that. He tells a security guard that no press are allowed beyond this point and walks on. He says she is press and says he will read about it in the funny papers. She asks if they are still friends. He says she is his best friend and walks away.
Steve goes into the convention hall and does the mic check. He listens to Morris speaking about integrity. He hears an interviewer asking him how this whole thing unfolded.
This political drama explores current issues in presidential politics and shows the problems campaign managers may have in planning strategy and doing damage control. Pretty interns tempt experienced politicians and their strategists, making things complicated and risky.