Don't count The West Wing out yet. The once-mighty series may have lost much of its buzz, but its loyal and upscale audience was enough to filibuster cancellation. Still, expect major changes when the seventh season begins this fall — starting with a move to Sundays at 8 pm/ET. Budget and potential pay cuts may result in the exodus of some veteran cast members. And if producers have their way, a certain dead Desperate husband will be returning to Washington.

"We had a licensing reduction of 50 percent [from NBC], and every actor's contract has to be renegotiated," executive producer

John Wells says. "My hope is that everybody is going to want to come back."

So far, Martin Sheen (outgoing President Jed Bartlet), Alan Alda (Senator Arnold Vinick) and Jimmy Smits (Congressman Matt Santos) are signed for the new season. So is Stockard Channing (First Lady Abigail Bartlet), who will shoot her West Wing scenes around the schedule of her new CBS sitcom, Out of Practice.

Another familiar face likely to return is Steven Culp — best known as Desperate Housewives' casualty Rex Van De Kamp, who was poisoned by a pharmacist with a crush on his wife, Bree (Marcia Cross).

TV Guide has learned that negotiations are under way for Culp to reprise his West Wing role as House Speaker Jeff Haffley. "The whole plan for last fall had to be scrapped once he landed such a big hit," Wells says. "But now he is available again. We just have to figure out what we will do with the character."

The presidential election will certainly be the major story this season — and don't assume that the liberal-leaning show will put Santos, a Democrat, in the Oval Office. "We sit down and we plan where things are going to go, but the people you cast make a huge difference in how stories change for the future," Wells says. So should we expect Republican candidate Vinick to win the election? "Well, it would make for good drama, wouldn't it?"