It isn't that Ben thought she wouldn't win. It's more that it isn't until it becomes pretty damn clear that she is GOING to win that he starts to realize what this is going to mean.
"Leslie, oh my god," he murmurs, trying not to let the panic show on his face. "Leslie."
She looks up at him, looking elated and terrified and baffled and beautiful. "I know. I know. I know I know I know."
"Sweetheart, I don't mean to diminish the monumental nature of your victory in any way, and I definitely don't want to make this amazing moment about myself and my feelings, but--"
"--oh crap, you're going to be First Lady," she finishes, and he feels a little bit better that she seems similarly dumbstruck. "Or. First Man? First Husband? First Accountant?"
They watch as CNN announces Pennsylvania for Knope, and they're almost ready to call Ohio, and-- Ben had known the country was ready for change. He had known Leslie was the kind of change everyone needed. He had listened to all the late night talk show hosts speculate about what the White House would look like with a female President and Benjamin Knope-Wyatt at her side, but it just hadn't ever sunk in until this very moment.
Florida for Knope. She clutches at his hand, and he squeezes back.
"Leslie will have to greet the crowds soon, Ben," Ron says, looking up from his clipboard. "Can you manage to smile and wave without looking like you've just eaten something sour? We could really do without the morning editorials about your hatred of democracy."
Moving into the White House is weird, firstly because it's the White House, and secondly because Leslie keeps asking if they've ever considered adding murals to the interior design scheme, and no one really knows how to answer her.
But mostly, it's weird because he now has a staff, and he's supposed to pick a platform that isn't partisan or objectionable in any way. Of course, working in Pawnee had quickly taught him that ANY issue, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, would manage to rile and offend some portion of the population.
Oh, also: he was terrible with people, and small talk, and putting a positive spin on anything. There was also that. So far, his staff has nixed:
-Balance America's Checkbooks
-Teach America Quickbooks
-How to Open a Savings Account
-How to Get the Most Out of Your Pension Plan
-Don't Use Credit Cards for Major Purchases Unless You Already Have the Money Available to Pay the Bill When it Comes
"Maybe we should stay away from the whole...accounting thing. And math. We should stay away from math," Elsie suggests. "Don't you think, Tom?"
"Yes, DUH," Tom sighs, rolling his eyes. "Leslie should have married me. I would be SO much better at this than you."
Ben forbears to agree out loud, but, well, yes. Tom is better at schmoozing and making people happy than Ben is, which was why Tom was now his Chief of Staff. If Ben was good at getting Tom out of awkward situations by boring people until Tom could escape, then Tom was just as good as providing a bonhomie shield to prevent anyone from noticing that Ben didn't want to hear about their summer vacation stories. Or, nowadays, Nobel Peace Prizes. Whatever.
"Fine. What would you suggest?" Ben says, feeling cross. He likes math. And maybe if America liked math, Leslie wouldn't have such a big mess to fix.
Tom grins, and then it's Ben's turn to say no. No, no, and no, to such glorious ideas as
-Yoga for the Elderly
-Everyone Can Be a Movie Star!!!!
-Summer Vacation from April to October
-An iPad on Every Corner
-Downer Tax, with Hotness Rebates!
-Neighborhood Llama Rides
-Federally Funded Battle of the Bands
-Waterslides in Every City!!!
Ben rubs at his temples. "Please stop. Who would even want a waterslide in every city?"
"Anyone who loves fun. Which pretty much explains why YOU don't get it," Tom sniffs. "People love waterslides! Scratch that, people love waterPARKS! Log flumes, wave pools, slides, all of it. Someone else is going to think of it soon, and you're going to be sorry that you didn't do it first. Hello, are you even listening to me?"
But Ben isn't. He's looking down at his padfolio, a thoughtful look on his face. "That's-- interesting. Hey, do we have Al Gore's number? And Bill McDonough, maybe?" He heads out the door, mumbling to himself as he loosens his tie.
Tom shakes his head. "Elsie, I'm going to warn you now. If he comes back and says it's time for an Ice Town Renaissance, you'll need to call the Secret Service."
He gets the proposal drafted, the speech written, the slideshow made, and then he takes it to Leslie.
They're sitting cross-legged on their bed, because he knows better than to bother her with First Lady stuff while she's doing actual work during the day. Stop by to make out in the Oval Office: yes. Ask her if she remotely cares about the place settings he's apparently in charge of: no. He watches while she reads through the dossier, stopping sometimes on one page, flipping back to reread another section. He waits as long as he can stand, and then he just can't help it. "So? What do you think? Is it too derivative? It's too derivative, isn't it."
She looks up, and he can tell she's tired, but she's beaming and her eyes are wet and she's the President and she reaches out to touch his arm. "You-- you want to do this?" The title of the report is First Gentleman Benjamin Wyatt-Knope Launches America the Beautiful: A National Movement to Revitalize Our Parks and Public Spaces.
"It's something people forget about. They forget how important it is," he says, looking down at his hands.
She throws all the papers on the floor, and he'd be worried, except for how she knocks him flat and pounces, tilting his head back for a kiss. "You're gonna be Teddy Roosevelt and Ladybird Johnson and...Yogi Bear, all at once."
"Yogi Bear?" he asks breathlessly, brushing the hair out of her eyes.
"No, you're right," she says, biting at his jaw. "Yogi's the thief. Basket stealer. I meant Smokey. Smokey the."
"--the Bear, right. Only you can prevent-- oh, fffffffu-- forest fires."
"Only you," Leslie laughs, her mouth grinning against his neck. "Only you."
He announces his parks campaign two weeks later, and only a few pundits use their Beltway-talk to call him pussywhipped, which is a nice surprise. He hires Jerry to design a National Parks Coloring Book for schoolkids, and then asks if he'll paint some parks murals around the country, since there are really strict rules about new art in the White House.
Andy stops a mugging by tackling a guy who he says "looked like he was from Eagleton, ugh," and everyone talks about how Vice President Dwyer is an action hero. Donna bullies five congressmen across the aisle into voting for Leslie's budget, and sweet-talks ten more into doing the same. Ann makes sure everyone on the senior staff gets a flu shot before convincing Philip Morris to stop advertising smokeless tobacco like candy. April's talk show keeps getting higher and higher ratings, because the entire country (nay, world) likes watching her invite famous politicians on only to stare at them and make them uncomfortable. Leslie accidentally says "whiz palace" to the President of France.
Ben is getting better at hosting tea parties, and he's feeling good about the heart to heart he had with George Lucas at a technology conference. Ben had argued passionately about the need for a wide release of the original versions of the original trilogy. "A lot of us LIKED the old effects," Ben had said, trying to project some Knope-esque sincerity. "A lot of us would pay good money to get them back." Real Simple publishes an article praising his eco-friendly choice for the new White House china, and Jean-Ralphio's "Fuck Yeah First Lady Ben!!!!" Tumblr is getting 3,000 hits a day.
It's going pretty well, he thinks, and gestures Elsie in to start talking about the state of the White House linens.