In the story, former comedian Franken decides to run for president on a single-issue platform (abolishing ATM fees) and challenge the frontrunner and likely shoo-in, then-Vice President Al Gore, in the Democratic primary. Despite daunting odds, and disastrous P.R. stunts by Franken and his campaign staff, a combination of avarice and circumstance allows Franken to win in a Landslide Election. However, it soon becomes apparent after his inauguration that Franken is not up to the being leader of the free world...
While it was a farce at the time of publication, it later became Hilarious in Hindsight when the Real Life Franken embarked on a political career and became a U.S. senator from Minnesota. He actually got such a reputation that at least one pundit recommended him as Hillary Clinton's running mate for 2016. Then it became Harsher in Hindsight when Franken was forced to resign in 2017 (for multiple allegations of sexual harassment, as opposed to manic episodes like in the book).
This film provides examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Compare "Franni" on the cover and Franni in person◊.
- Arc Number: 144 in the epilogue.
- As Himself: Most of the characters in Al's campaign/cabinet (except Otto) are real-life political pundits, like Norman Ornstein, Howard Fineman, Dick Morris, Frank Luntz, etc.
- The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams star Dan Haggerty joins up with the campaign, becoming Al's trusted advisor, Otto's barroom buddy, and Ambassador to Great Britain once Al gets into the White House.
- Alternate Universe: After the end of Bill Clinton's presidency. Franken is swept into the White House in the biggest landslide election since 1964, he defeats Newt Gingrich instead of George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman succeeds Franken and serves for eighteen years. Other events include the death of Prince Charles in a "polo mishap," Michael Eisner being sent to prison after "the Space Mountain disaster of 2002," and a far future where "shit" is no longer considered profanity.
- Ax-Crazy: Or, in Otto Franken's case, "Board Crazy."
- Al himself later becomes Board Crazy when high on his anti-depressants, hatching an insane plan to kill Saddam Hussein by parachuting into Iraq and striking him with a plaque reading "World's Greatest Grandpa."
- Cassandra Truth: Joel constantly give much-needed advice to Franken which he ignores, namely destroying the campaign diary which contains ridiculously incriminating information on Franken's lies and illegal activities. The revelations in the diary force Franken to resign.
- Dark Horse Victory: Franken goes from obscure dark horse candidate to president, with the biggest landslide victory since Nixon.
- Dewey Defeats Truman:
- Everybody knows who really won the 2000 election and the hijinks the country had to go through to declare him the winner. Whether said victor was worse than the fictional Franken depends on one's political inclination, and that is all that will be said on the matter.
- Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, who are supposed to be the surrogate parents of Franken's clone, broke up after Heche no longer identified as a lesbian.
- Joe Lieberman really did become the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000, but became so far-right in the years afterward that the Democrats would now never accept him as a presidential nominee.
- Enfant Terrible: The Cobb twins, who give Franken's campaign team a headache in New Hampshire.
- Framing Device: The three books within a book make up the novel, starting with Franken's ficticious autobiography Daring to Lead; Franken's campaign diary covering the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries; and a behind-the-scenes exposé by Bob Woodward covering Franken's brief term.
- Hero Antagonist: Al Gore, whose attempted exposure of Franken's shenanigans backfires and costs him the nomination.
- It Will Never Catch On: Averted. Although most people in Real Life would see ATM useage fees as a frivilous non-issue, pundit chatter in-universe turns it into a sleeper issue that bolsters Franken's popularity. When the Millennium Bug only affects ATMs, the momentum helps Franken beat Al Gore to the Democratic nomination.
- Jerkass: Pretty much everyone in the Franken campaign. Probably the only likeable character is Franken's wife.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Averted with Gore; even after getting crushed in the Democratic primaries, several newspaper headlines repeatedly say that Gore "vows to fight on" despite Franken's popularity.
- Karma Houdini: Franken pardons himself while the rest of the administration lands in prison.
- Landslide Election: Franken's defeat of Gore (who even loses in his home state of Tennessee) in the primaries, and his defeat of Newt Gingrich in the national election.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The campaign diary and Daring to Lead take place in the near-future years of 1999-2001, covering the primaries and the first days of Franken's presidency.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: Plenty of examples on Franken's part, especially his campaign diary that is loaded with insults against the inhabitants of both New Hampshire and Iowa. It bites him in the ass when he has to hand over the diary to a congressional committee.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Franken's decision to pick Joe Lieberman as his running mate is considered one of the few good things to come out of his presidency, as Lieberman turns out to be one of the greatest presidents in history and leads the country through an eighteen year-long period of prosperity.
- That Came Out Wrong: Franken's inauguration speech. In the middle of trying to apologize for slavery, Franken makes a highly offensive impression of a black character from the movie Mandingo. The speech results in a backlash.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: During a debate, Gore tries to unload information linking Al's brother Otto to a series of illegal activities which benefited Al's campaign. Al turns this around on Gore, angrily accusing him of exploiting Otto's personal problems for political gain. The incident dooms Gore's shot at the Democratic nomination.
- Your Cheating Heart: Franken routinely cheats on his wife and boasts of his conquests in the campaign diary in graphic detail.