Synopsis and trailer below:
Aug. 2007: Political strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) receives a call from his old friend, Arizona Senator John McCain (Ed Harris), who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, asking him to join Rick Davis (Peter MacNicol) as a senior campaign strategist and advisor. In November, McCain wins the nomination.
Aug. 27, 2008: Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his advisors Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis are faced with the task of finalizing his running mate. With McCain trailing Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the polls, Schmidt believes they need to act boldly to win the race. Schmidt and Davis think they’ve found a “game changer” with the relatively unknown but charismatic Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore). Palin is brought to Sedona, Arizona to meet with Schmidt and longtime McCain aide Mark Salter (Jamey Sheridan). Although there is little time for attorney A.B. Culvahouse (John Rothman) to properly vet Palin with the “Road to the Convention” rally imminent, Schmidt convinces McCain, despite Salter’s serious doubts, to go with Sarah Palin. With the reception that Palin receives when she is introduced as the vice presidential candidate on Aug. 29, 2008, it seems they have made the right choice. Palin electrifies the Republican base, turning the race around.
However, the pressures of the high-profile campaign begin to take a toll on Palin. Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Paulson), who has the task of preparing Palin for her various television interviews, soon discovers she is dangerously inexperienced and uninformed about national and world affairs. The staff’s tireless efforts to educate her, combined with two disastrous TV interviews, knock an exhausted Palin into a sullen funk that leaves McCain aides wondering about her overall health and ability to finish the campaign.
Concerned for his running mate’s well-being, McCain suggests that Palin and the group take a detour from the campaign trail and arranges for some much-needed R&R in the fresh air of Sedona in Arizona. Here she is reunited with her family and careful strategies are put into place that will offer her a less stressful, more relaxed preparation for the upcoming debate.
Oct. 2, 2008: To everyone’s relief, Palin delivers a strong debate performance, reviving her magnetic energy. Emboldened by her growing popularity, however, she starts going off-script, publicly questioning political strategy and tapping into a wave of voter anger. As a result, the campaign turns negative – a tactic McCain had been steadfastly trying to avoid. When the race ends in Obama’s victory, Schmidt realizes that his eagerness to bring on a provocative yet inexperienced running mate may have reduced the margin of defeat, but in the process sacrificed principle.