One of the many ideas around which Democratic presidential candidates are rapidly coalescing is the elimination of the Electoral College, our system for electing the president. They have several arguments in support of their proposal, but the primary one is that because of the “red” and “blue” nature of most states, candidates only campaign in a handful of swing states and ignore the rest of the country.
This is simply false.
In the 2016 campaign, the Democratic nominee did campaign in Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana, and the Republican nominee did go to New York, Washington, and California.
According to National Journal’s Travel Tracker, between May 2015 and Election Day 2016 the candidates made 2,415 appearances in all 50 states. Even limiting the data to the last half of 2016 when the primary campaigns gave way to the Trump-Clinton general, only 13 states were “ignored”, and that includes Alaska and Hawaii, which are logistically more difficult to visit than the rest.
The suggestion that the party nominees only campaign in states they are likely to win is belied by the 2016 map. After securing the GOP nomination in May, Trump went on to campaign in Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Maine. He lost all these states by an average of 10 points.
Presidential contenders may campaign more in certain states than others, but that wouldn’t change with a single national popular vote either. Instead of spending a disproportionate amount of time in close states, they would spend a disproportionate amount of time in the most populous ones. Also, it would require a constitutional amendment. Good luck!
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the Electoral College is the worst system for electing the president, except for all the others.