Swing Vote (2008) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • November, 2004, New Mexico. Bud is a slacker with one good thing in his life, his engaging fifth-grade daughter Molly. On election day, Bud is supposed to meet her at the polling place. When he doesn't show, she sneaks a ballot and is about to vote when the power goes off. It turns out that New Mexico's electoral votes will decide the contest, and there it's tied with one vote needing recasting - Bud's. The world's media and both presidential candidates, including the current President, descend on Bud in anticipation of his re-vote in two weeks. Can the clueless Bud, even with the help of Molly and a local TV reporter, handle this responsibility?

  • In the small town of Texico, New Mexico, adolescent Molly Johnson and the rest of her class are learning about federal politics in the lead up to the election. Bright Molly has become even more civically and socially minded because of it. In this regard, she is the exact opposite of her divorced father, simple minded Bud Johnson, a slacker who can't hold onto a job since he is usually drunk or sleeping off a hangover. Bud, who has never voted, was not even on the voter's list until Molly registered him as an Independent. For Molly, Bud vows he will vote in this election. When most of the votes are counted, the candidate between Republican President Andrew Boone and his Democratic rival, Donald Greenleaf, who wins the swing state of New Mexico wins the White House. However a glitch in the Texico voting booth has resulted in one ballot not being registered, that ballot being Bud's and that ballot which will determine who wins New Mexico and the presidency. The problem is that Bud let Molly down once again by getting drunk instead of voting, so Molly sneaked into the voting booth with his ballot. So when election officials track down Bud, he answers that it was his ballot, with Molly still having the stub to prove it. It isn't until ambitious local news reporter Kate Madison breaks the story that both Bud and Molly understand the implications. With Bud set to recast his official ballot in ten days, they are bombarded on all sides, most specifically by the media, the public who write Bud letters asking him to vote on certain issues, and the campaigns of the two candidates. Both political sides know they are working on a one voter, ten day campaign, they trying to learn everything they can about Bud Johnson to push the right buttons with him. As the situation turns into a circus exacerbated by the two campaigns who have a win at any cost mentality and Bud continually unwittingly presenting himself as a half-wit in the public eye, Molly tries to get her father to do the right thing, and if he can't or won't, she wants to present him to the world as a caring person who really does want to do the right thing. But it isn't until Molly meets with her mother, Larissa Johnson who left the family to pursue a singing career and who Molly has not seen since she was an infant, and has further encounters with Kate that Molly may get her wish.

  • In a remarkable turn-of-events, the result of the presidential election comes down to one man's vote.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Kevin Costner stars as Bud Johnson, an apathetic, beer slinging, lovable loser, who is coasting through a life that has passed him by, except for the one bright spot in his mundane existence, his precocious, over achieving twelve-year old daughter, Molly. She takes care of them both, until one mischievous moment on Election Day, when she accidentally sets off a chain of events which culminates in the presidential election coming down to one vote, her dad's.

    Suddenly, Bud Johnson, the nobody, becomes the voice for everybody when the world realizes that his vote will be the one that elects the next president. Politicians invade the small town of Texico, New Mexico and its unwitting inhabitants, waging war for Bud's vote.

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