The party candidates (Which party? Who knows
) for president and vice-president were killed when their planes crashed into each other
. Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn), believing they have no chance of winning since the other party's candidate is unbeatable (Having been vice-president for eight years, a Vietnam War veteran, ''and'' being Sharon Stone's cousin
), decides to set his party up as next election's favorite. He decides to put Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock
), a black alderman of the 9th Ward in Washington D.C., on the ticket. The idea is that Mays will garner them goodwill among the minority voters of America, so that when the next election comes they will be predisposed to vote for whoever the party has nominated, which Arnot plans to be himself. Unfortunately, once Mays decides to run things his way, he does too well.
So well that it looks like he has a legitimate chance of winning, and even if he fails, he will do well enough to be nominated again for the next election instead of Arnot. Much of what follows is Arnot trying to undermine Mays while presidential favorite Brian Lewis (Nick Searcy) underestimates Mays to the very end.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Brian Lewis has been vice president for eight years, is a war hero, and is Sharon Stone's cousin.
- Attack of the Political Ad: Gilliam refuses to run attack ads on Lewis. Not because he has a moral compunction against them (Although he does), but because he just does not think they do any good because everybody runs attack ads. He points out that, in Bugs Bunny cartoons, what hurt Elmer Fudd the most was not when Bugs would attack him directly, but when he would kiss him. So, Gilliam runs an ad campaign of people professing their support for Lewis: People like members of the KKK, Osama bin Laden and others.
- Lewis's attack ads are so ridiculous, it's a wonder people believe them. Such as claiming that Mays supports cancer because he didn't attend an anti-cancer rally (which Lewis probably didn't attend either).
- Be Yourself: Mays' campaign takes off after he stops trying to be what is expected of him and runs the campaign his way. It helps that the original campaign was deliberately engineered to not be successful.
- Blatant Lies: When promoting the movie on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock declared that "nothing blows up" in the movie. A building explodes dramatically in the very first scene. A 3D model of the White House is also blown up in one of Lewis' attack ads.
- Catch Phrase: It's an election movie, so it's to be expected.
- Lewis has "God bless America, and no place else." His campaign slogan is "Vote Brian Lewis: it's your last chance."
- Mays has "That ain't right!" as his slogan.
- Contrived Coincidence: Mays only gets a shot because the presidential and vice-presidential candidates die when their planes crash into each other.
- Enemy Mine: Towards the end, Arnot actually gives Lewis advice on how to pull out a last minute victory, since neither of them wants to see Gilliam win.
- Gone Horribly Right: Arnot picks Mays because he thinks he is capable of running a good race without actually winning., garnering them good will for the next election. Except he runs a really good race.
- Idiot Ball: Mays nearly derails his campaign when he assumes a cameraman is not filming him, and thus says something he would not say on the air. The members of his campaign afterwards point out to him that, when you are running for president, the camera is always running.
- No Party Given: Neither party is ever identified; the entire movie passes without it being specified if Gilliam is running as a Democrat or Republican, and Lewis's political credentials are a mix of both Democrat and Republican traits. However, one of the member of Arnot's party is explicitly for "Big Business", which tends to be a GOP thing.
- Product Placement: Yes, Fubu does, in fact, make formalwear.
- Running Gag:
- "We're the government; we can do anything."
- The Imagine Spot of Mays being assassinated at a podium.
- "Security!" Mays' ex-girlfriend is then dragged off with the exact same scream each time. Then it happens to Arnot, still with the same scream.
- "God bless America and No Place else."
- Brian Lewis has been vice president for eight years, is a war hero, and is Sharon Stone's cousin.
- The guy with the demo CD trying to get a Presidential candidate and his running mate to promote his music.
- The constant need to specify that Mays is indeed running for President. Of the United States. Of America. North America.
- Rushmore Refacement: Mays' head is added to the lineup, complete with shiny tooth.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Mays declines a campaign contribution from beverage company whose latest brand of malt liquor is clearly marketed to encourage underage drinking.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: At the debate, Mays thoroughly deconstructs Lewis's Catch Phrase by pointing out that there's no reason why God shouldn't bless the entire world, not just a single country, especially since America has already been blessed. This earns him the applause of the entire audience, including Lewis's supporters.
- Shout-Out: When discussing whether or not to run attack ads, Gilliam discusses Bugs Bunny and the different ways he would torment Elmer Fudd.
- Springtime for Hitler: Party head Bill Arnott chooses Gilliam as their replacement presidential candidate because it will win minority votes for the party and set him up for a win when he runs for president during the next election. He is not at all prepared for the possibility that Gilliam might win.