The rumor is that prior to John Spencer's death Vinnick was going to win the Election. I never really believed that but I am re-watching season 7 right now, and it is crystal clear that Santos was always going to be the winner.
Why? Well at first my reasoning was that they spent a lot more time on the Santos campaign, and that is without question true. For every episode about Vinnick there seems to be at least 2 about Santos, and usually the Vinnick heavy episodes will have some Santos people show up, while there are whole Santos heavy episodes where Vinnick is no where to be found.
On top of which every episode is "meet a Santos staffer day." The Santos episodes are filmed like classic West Wing Episodes where Josh (in the role of Leo) spends the whole episode figuring out a problem and at the end Santos (in the role of Bartlett) solves it by being totally badass with wit and brains and reminding everyone he is the one really running the show. So we spend the whole episode with Josh and the staff either running around or in awe of Santos. Vinnick episodes are all about Vinnick, we see his senior advisors, but we don't get to know them.
On top of that is Santos' wife plays a pretty big role, even her underwear and bedroom activities get to be part of the show. His kids show up, his brother, we see his house a few times. We never spend time with anyone from Vinnick's personal life, which becomes an even bigger issue during the debate because we see he DOES have some kind of family (I know he mentions grandkids... so presumably he has children of his own). But we never get to know anything about them.
But you can take all of that aside and there is still a reason they never planned to have Vinnick be the President. They position Vinnick as the bad guy. Granted, to be fair, the West Wing has a pretty long history of making Republicans the bad guys, to the point where no one would be surprised if the leader of the Republican party was the evil Emperor from Star Wars or Dr. Doom from the Fantastic Four. Vinnick was a pretty decent guy especially for a Republican on the West Wing. BUT... he was still "the bad guy." He was the first one in the campaign to go negative, the first to do underhanded tactics and go racial, to start making blatantly make promises to supporters he had no intention of keeping.
He was also the favored to win from the start, making Santos being an underdog the more romantic story. Season 7 would be a waste of time if the story starts "Vinnick is favored to win" and ends "Vinnick wins."
See I could buy Vinnick was suppose to be the winner if the show remained about Jed Bartlett's last year in office. It didn't. There are whole episodes where Bartlett does not appear. There are episodes where Vinnick does not appear. The only person who is in each and every episode is Santos (and Josh I think). And this starts early in season 7.
The writing staff says they made Santos win (when he was suppose to lose) because of Spencer passing... all do respect to John but that's bull****. It would be too sad for Santos to both lose the election and lose his running mate. Give me a break. Leo wasn't Santos father. They only met one time before he got on the ticket and they barely spoke while on the campaign trail.
And seriously. SERIOUSLY they are going to rewrite the whole ending of the serious because "losing the election too would be too sad." Really? Why not just announce Leo's death after the election. Or hell not at all. Maybe even make a metaphorical joke about how "Leo has gone to a better place." And then someone explains how Vinnick appointed him Ambassador to someplace cool.
The point I am making is I am sitting here watching Season 7 and it is so painfully obvious that Santos was always meant to be the president, I don't know why people believe the lies of the producers.