Mike Nichols directed this Elaine May screenplay adapted from the 1996 bestseller by "Anonymous" (Joe Klein), who fictionalized Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. In the New Hampshire primary, Governor Jack Stanton (John Travolta) convinces Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), grandson of a respected civil rights pioneer, to become his deputy campaign manager. Stanton's smart wife Susan (Emma Thompson) always comes through with public support for her philandering husband. The film's parallel for James Carville is Stanton's redneck advisor Richard Jemmons (Billy Bob Thornton), who knows every strategy and tactic but worries, "The woman thing, that's the killer." Sure enough, problems during the New Hampshire primary include charges of adultery. To get a handle on past peccadillos, Stanton's staff brings in an old family friend, lesbian Libby Holden (Kathy Bates), who knows how to clean up dirt. Stanton, a strong debater, moves on to Florida and New York. When one opposing candidate drops dead of a heart attack, he's replaced by Florida's Governor Fred Picker (Larry Hagman), but Holden holds the skeleton key to the skeleton in Picker's closet. Just how the Stantons put this information to use reveals whether they are ruthless politicians or inspirational leaders with ideals.
by Bhob Stewart synopsis