The governor of an unnamed state, Hubert "Happy" Hopper, has to pick a replacement for deceased U.S. Senator Sam Foley. His corrupt political boss, Jim Taylor, pressures Hopper to choose his handpicked stooge, while popular committees want a reformer. The governor's children want him to select Jefferson Smith, the head of the Boy Rangers. Unable to make up his mind, Hopper decides to flip a coin. When it lands on its side – and next to a newspaper story on one of Smith's accomplishments – he chooses Smith, calculating that his wholesome image will please the people while his naiveté will make him easy to manipulate.