The West Wing/Josiah Bartlet
Although the show has an ensemble cast, the main character in the series has become the fictional U.S. President Bartlet. Bartlet represents, in many ways, an "ideal liberal president," endowed with a fierce intellect, great (though not infallible) personal integrity and toughness, but tempered with essential compassion for the less fortunate and a sense of humor.
President Bartlet is an accomplished economist, with a Masters and Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics and a Nobel Prize in Economics. Based on his tentative date of birth (August of 1940), he was likely a student during the famous protests held at the LSE between 1967-1969. He is a descendant of the real-life Josiah Bartlett, a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence. Before entering politics Bartlet was a tenured professor of economics at Dartmouth College, where he received an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters.
Like his ancestor, he was governor of New Hampshire. Prior to serving two terms as governor, Bartlet served on the New Hampshire State Board of Education and was a three-term member of the United States House of Representatives and either a representative or senator in the New Hampshire State Legislature (the show does not make clear which).
His close friend, Leo McGarry, convinced him to run for president around the fall of 1997 and, although initially a total outsider for the Democratic nomination in 1998, he eventually defeated the presumptive nominee, Texas senator John Hoynes, who was asked by Bartlet to join the ticket as his vice-presidential running mate. He defeated the Republican nominee for President, almost certainly two term Republican President Owen Lassiter's Vice President, who may have been called Richards. He won a close election with just 48 percent of the vote, 48 million popular votes and a 303-235 margin in the U.S. Electoral College. In 2002, Bartlet was elected to a second term, defeating the Republican Florida governor, Rob Ritchie, by a considerably wider margin in what had been expected to be an election as close as the one four years earlier.
He is a devout Roman Catholic, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame who once considered becoming a priest. He changed his mind upon meeting his future wife, Abigail Bartlet, who became a thoracic surgeon. They have three daughters: Elizabeth Ann "Liz" Weston, Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Bartlet, and Zoey Patricia Bartlet, and he is depicted as a stern but loving father, in contrast to his own father, who (as we see in flashbacks) was cold and physically abusive. In addition to his three daughters, President Bartlet has paternal feelings towards members of his staff, referring to Charlie Young (his former personal assistant) and Josh Lyman (his deputy chief of staff) as his sons (as established in the episodes Two Cathedrals and Shibboleth), and telling C.J. Cregg (his then press secretary) that she was part of his family (in the episode The West Wing/Enemies Forgein|Enemies Foreign]]). The President suffers from multiple sclerosis, which at one time put the future of his presidency in doubt.
Bartlet was shot in the first season cliffhanger finale. The President's wounds were not serious and it was later discovered that Charlie Young was the actual target of the assassination attempt, not the President himself.
In the Season Two finale Two Cathedrals, Bartlet announced to the country that he suffers from multiple sclerosis, and had been keeping it a secret, although this had previously been revealed to the viewers in the Season One episode He Shall, From Time to Time...
Bartlet's daughter, Zoey, was kidnapped on the day of her graduation from Georgetown University, possibly due to the Bartlet-ordered assassination of the Qumari defense minister. While Zoey was missing, President Bartlet invoked Section 3 of the 25th Amendment, giving up the power of the presidency. Due to the resignation a few days earlier of Vice President John Hoynes, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Glen Allen Walken, a Republican, became Acting President. Zoey was recovered with only minor injuries several days later and President Bartlet reassumed his office a few hours later. On a trip to China, Bartlet was left temporarily paralyzed by an attack of MS.
Bartlet is currently in the last year of his term, with elections likely to occur in November of 2006 (in the show's seventh season). His potential successors are Rep. Matt Santos (D-TX) and Sen. Arnold Vinick (R-CA).