Baer: Making a better campaign from 2016's lousy one

20160815_dn_z1baer15c
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: It's only August and already we would like them to wave goodbye. PHOTOS: ASSOCIATED PRESS

UNLESS I'M wrong (and I have been), lots of you are spending time pondering the mysteries of Campaign 2016.

Things such as when will The Donald release his tax returns and will they show he gave a total of $3 to charity while investing hundreds of millions in rubles for his pal Putin with plans to buy Aeroflot and name one of its planes Trumpski 1?

Or when will Hillary hold a news conference (her last was last December) to talk about, oh, I don't know, why nobody believes a thing she says? Or must her traveling press corps cough up a six-figure fee to get her to talk?

Also, how'd we end up with this pair? And who's Jill Stein? And who's Gary Johnson? And is there a way we can forgo this thing, just stipulate Hillary as less horrid than Donald and allow "herstory" by default?

And, by the way, isn't that what we're doing?

Maybe then we can focus on making our politics better by making our system of selecting and electing presidents more sensible.

I'm talking both primaries and generals.

I've long argued for a truncated primary season. By the time we get to the general we can't stand to listen to the people we've listened to for more than a year.

Same-day regional primaries with contiguous states voting as one would save money, reducing the need for so much dark dough as well as reducing campaign fatigue.

And four regional primaries, one a month from February through May, would allow for targeting issues facing voters in every section of the country.

A similar proposal was recommended by the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2000 and endorsed by the Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2005. It's time to make it happen.

Then we should tweak the Electoral College in a way that, like changing primaries, is about common sense.

Currently, popular-vote winners in each state (except Maine and Nebraska) get all that state's electoral votes. This can result in a candidate winning the most votes nationally but losing the election.

Happened four times, three times in the 19th century, most recently in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College to George W. Bush.

I am not re-litigating that election. I'm suggesting the candidate getting the most votes should win.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan California-based group, National Popular Vote, pushes for such a system.

It urges laws in states with enough combined Electoral College votes to win the presidency (270) that say those states will cast their Electoral College ballots for whoever wins the national vote, even if that candidate didn't win that state.

Group spokesman Patrick Rosenstiel says 11 states with 165 electoral votes have passed such laws (when I wrote about this last cycle it was six states, 74 votes), two more are close and bills are pending in dozens of others, including Pennsylvania.

Rosenstiel stresses that since elections now get decided by 11 or 12 battleground states, most voters in most states "are relegated to spectators." He argues under a national vote system, every vote in every state becomes more important.

He adds, "I'm increasingly confident" the goal is reached by the 2020 election.

The issue has broad public support and lots of bipartisan backing, including from ideological opposites (and past presidential candidates) Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich.

Would bringing some levelheadedness and practicality to politics bring us better candidates? Who knows? But adding more common sense certainly would make our system better - and maybe increase our interest in it.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer