The liberal politics of ''The West Wing'' may be out of sync with those of the real-life White House, but during the coming season, the show will mimic reality by focusing more on presidential campaigning. And a central figure may be a politician from Texas. Variety reports that the show's producers are in talks with Jimmy Smits to join the cast as a three-term congressman from Houston with an eye on the Oval Office.
The possible hiring of the former ''NYPD Blue'' leading man and the campaign storyline may add some needed juice to the show as it enters its sixth season. Though ''West Wing'' remains Emmy bait (it earned 12 nominations last month), its ratings have declined, and critics have complained that the quality of the writing has also slumped since creator Aaron Sorkin left at the end of the fourth season. With President Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) term in office winding down, it's natural for the show to develop the election storyline, writer-producer Lawrence O'Donnell tells the New York Times. ''In the evolution of the stories, politics and campaigning has been the arena least explored. We're trying to rectify that balance,'' he says. ''It's a slightly unreal element on the show that we haven't had the political sharks circling the White House. That dynamic will now be added.''