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“The West Wing” Parallels

Jimmy Smits, whose character made an unlikely rise to the presidency on the final episodes of “The West Wing,” will introduce Barack Obama and Bill Clinton at their rally in Florida tonight.

Brian Stelter of the New York Times writes of the similarities to the Obama-McCain race to the 2006 fictional Santos-Vinick contest.

He writes, “Watching “The West Wing” in retrospect — all seven seasons are available on DVD, and episodes can be seen in syndication — viewers can see allusions to Mr. Obama in almost every facet of Matthew Santos, the Hispanic Democratic candidate played by Jimmy Smits. Santos is a coalition-building Congressional newcomer who feels frustrated by the polarization of Washington. A telegenic and popular fortysomething with two young children, Santos enters the presidential race and eventually beats established candidates in a long primary campaign.

“Wearing a flag pin, Santos announces his candidacy by telling supporters, “I am here to tell you that hope is real.” And he adds, “In a life of trial, in a world of challenges, hope is real.” Viewers can almost hear the crowd cheering, “Yes, we can.” “

“Comparisons between Senator John McCain and the “West Wing” Republican candidate, Arnold Vinick, a white-haired Senate stalwart with an antitax message and a reputation for delivering “straight talk” to the press, also abound. Vinick, played by Alan Alda, is deemed a threat to Democrats because of his ability to woo moderate voters. And he takes great pride in his refusal to pander to voters, telling an aide: “People know where I stand. They may not like it, but they know I’ll stick with it.” “

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