For the first thirty minutes or so of The Ides of March, I thought it was basically going to be an updated reworking of The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin's enduringly popular TV drama that offered a dramatic, behind-the-scenes look at life in the White House. Sorkin's show was rather famously modeled after the Clinton administration; his President Barlett was a Democrat whose White House faced many of the same issues as Clinton's, and was even marred by a highly-public scandal.
The Ides of March, meanwhile, is about a different kind of Democrat—a young, charismatic politician who isn't yet in the White House but would very much like to be. He speaks of a different kind of politics, a change-up from Washington as usual. His supporters are energized by his vigor, and by his perceived integrity; his opponents see him as either too inexperienced or too extreme. Why, even his campaign posters bear a striking graphic resemblance to the iconic Obama/Hope images.
This politician is Mike Morris (George Clooney, who also directed the film), a sitting governor who is running in a Democratic primary that is, essentially, the whole election; the Republicans don't have any good candidates, but his Democratic opponent offers some stiff competition. But we see from the get-go that his campaign is very different than that of his opponent. Indeed, the competitor's campaign is being run by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a veteran political hack who's just in it for a win, and doesn't mind getting down in the dirt and slinging some mud if it's what will get his man into the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, Morris is backed by campaign manager Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and press secretary Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling). We see the story unfold through ...1