In "House of Cards", Frank Underwood wants some energy bill to pass, but his wife is pressured by SandCorp into undermining him and getting two representatives to vote against the bill, which is a major blow to Peter Russo's campaign. However, later on it seems that Underwood wanted Russo to fail from the start, and the bill's failure seems to be a critical part of Russo's failure. What interest did Frank have in the bill's success if he wanted Russo to fail? The following are not answers:

  • He wanted Russo to stay viable until the end. Since Russo dies within 48 hours, which seems to be precisely timed by Underwood, the bill doesn't seem to make a difference. Assuming Russo was a dead man either way, the bill's failure actually helps Underwood by giving Russo more motive for suicide.

  • He had a personal stake in the bill. His only personal stake was Russo's success. He actually lost if the bill passed since his wife got screwed by SandCorp. We can see in their conversation earlier in this episode that his personal investment in the bill is entirely limited to the Russo campaign.

  • He wanted to maintain his own reputation as someone who could whip the bill into passage. Underwood wouldn't have taken the risk on the bill just for the sake of passing another bill. He needs another motive, otherwise he would have killed it before his own reputation was on the line.

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    He always wanted Russo to fail, that's a given. Yet Frank himself explains that this failure came far too early and forced him to improvise/advance his plans. It turned out pretty well for him, but it wasn't planned exactly that way. I'd say he wanted the bill passed in order to make Russo's downfall greater and, even more important, nearer to the end of the campaign and thus give the president and vice president less time to think and act. Yet this isn't an answer, as I don't have much more to back this up than the statement that this is just what I got from the show.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 21, 2014 at 23:12
  • Frank said he would make up the shipyard closing to Russo. He owed Russo for making it close down and had to make Russo not see him as an enemy.
    – user34250
    May 7, 2016 at 4:22

2 Answers 2


The short answer is, Frank Underwood doesn't care if the bill passes or fails. The only thing he wants is for Peter Russo to fail.

The longer answer with background: Frank Underwood stated Russo was a pawn. Understand that after Frank is undermined for the Secretary position by Linda (and we later find out Tusk), he wanted something bigger and he wanted his revenge. Frank is the Master Manipulator (caps intended). It was Frank's intent for Russo to be clean for a couple of months, to run for the Pennsylvania Governor's race, only to bomb out. He didn't plan for Russo to try and continue with his attempted run for the Governorship, though, and thus the improvisation of the "suicide". Frank's plan was for Russo to fail, and fail miserably. This was so there would be a hole in the Pennsylvania race for Governor. He knew the VP was pining to be in the spot light again, so just worked it out so it would be him who would re-run for the Governor's spot. The Democrat Party would have no one else they could run for the spot. This leaves the VP spot wide open for Frank to take over. Even Claire's position at the foundation is all just a ploy. She leaves as soon as Frank has secured the VP position. The bill is just a means to an end. It gives Russo a platform to run on. It's putting Russo in place and his ultimate failure too close to the election. This is what Frank wants. Once Russo fails, the dominoes start falling and his plan is seen through. Mind you, we don't know much of this until the end of the first season, but it's all there.

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    Good answer. But you say that Claire's position at the foundation is a ploy. Why would you think that? What would they gain from her position there? What is more, she seems to be taking it very serious(she sabotages Frank's bill for the foundation). Care to elaborate(even in a comment) on this matter?
    – Dragos
    Mar 3, 2014 at 13:15
  • All political wives (in this case wife, meaning spouse of elected official) need to have a "thing" ... something they can hang their hat on. It improves their spouses political standing. It was politically expedient for Claire to be rid of her "thing" when the time came. Realistically with this show, I am beginning to wonder whether the writers are schizophrenic or not. They tend to kill the important characters way too easily, with plot and story line jumps which are out of this world. Mar 3, 2014 at 14:05
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    To mi mind, you cannot have a 100% realistic TV show, because it might get boring(someone said the same thing about Homeland when it was a good show - I am not talking about the soap opera it has become). Still, House of Cards is probably one of the most realistic shows I have seen. Hopefully it will not become something utterly stupid(see Homeland).
    – Dragos
    Mar 4, 2014 at 14:01
  • I like HOC, but living in the DC area find it very far fetched as the story line goes. I like it for the acting (Spacy is brilliant as he has been in almost everything I've seen him in), but the story line is out there just a little bit. 100% realistic TV show? Not even close. Entertaining ... by all means. Mar 4, 2014 at 14:31
  • @Dragos When talking about Homeland, I hope you're talking about the 2nd season and not the 3rd, as I haven't seen the 3rd yet and would hope it to be as good as the first two seasons.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 4, 2014 at 15:49

You might reconsider the first non-answer in your list. Here is what I understood.

Frank's original plan is to have Russo run for governor and only in the last minute to see him fail miserably in order for the vice president to continue the race and leave his position open. And precisely here is your answer.

  • Russo's failure should occur only a few days before the elections. Why? Because this would force a fast reaction from everybody, especially from the VP. The party doesn't want to loose the position and the VP doesn't have too much time for hesitation. This will bring up his desire to become a governor again and he will go for it. So it's a mix of internal desire and peer pressure.
  • Russo should have a very dramatic failure. Everything should have run perfect until the single (and final) blow at the end. Why? Because the VP and the party wouldn't be interested in rescuing a dying campaign in the last few days. I mean, what are the chances to get all the needed potential votes with a new candidate, without a platform and in a matter of, let's say, a week? By that time, most people would have already decided with whom to vote. So yes, the VP should be interested in the campaign from the start. He would have to be determined to save that potential. He wouldn't have risked his current position for something already half-dead.

As for the suicide attempt, I do not know if it was planned ahead. I think it was only a decision made on the spot to make Russo quiet. I believe that the plan was only to make him fail so bad that he would leave by himself or be forced by the party to abandon the race. Still, if the suicide was planned (improbable), a sudden major blow from out of nowhere would crush someone's hopes. When it is all of a sudden, the impact is bigger. Otherwise, if it comes after some other failures, it might leave no real wounds.

  • 1. This is what I was saying, the adventure with the bill takes him up to a few days before the elections. If the bill had succeeded Russo wouldn't have had a failure. So why did Frank want the bill to succeed right before elections? Mar 4, 2014 at 17:39
  • 2. Doesn't the bill's failure make it even more dramatic? I mean what was Frank's plan? He wants the bill to succeed, and then he's going to tempt Russo? The thing I'm saying is this all happens within such a short time frame that it seems like the bill's failure directly leads to Frank achieving his plans, or at least doesn't hinder them. Mar 4, 2014 at 17:40
  • @AndrewLatham It directly leads to Frank's success, but at an earlier time than planned. Of course he has to react fast and realize his actual plans a bit earlier, but I got that he actually planned Russo's downfall (likely rather through Rachel alone than through the bill's failure) to occur later, as he also mentions at one point that this forced him to advance his plans a bit.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Mar 5, 2014 at 12:04
  • @AndrewLatham About your first commentary(1.), you are only half right. Russo wouldn't have had a failure UNTIL Rachel's temptation. Frank's bet was on Russo's alcohol problem. So, having a perfect campaign under the flag of (self-)improvement and about how a man can change himself and through this power then change the community was the first step. The second step is to make Russo look like a hypocrite. Showing that the whole thing about change was false, that he cannot be relied on. This would happen by him doing an interview while being drunk. So please notice the steps.
    – Dragos
    Mar 5, 2014 at 14:12

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