10/11/2012 10:23 am ET Updated Dec 11, 2012

Appealing to the Red-White-and-Blue States

Following his strong performance in the first presidential debate, Gov. Mitt Romney saw his poll numbers go up in all the so-called battleground states. But they rose in non-battleground states, too.

Similarly, in 2008, President Obama created a nationwide wave that saw his campaign surf to victory in a broad appeal to the nation. In both instances, the candidates were doing the right thing.

Let us hope that as we close this election cycle we can escape the Red State/Blue State divisiveness. That Red State/Blue State divide is a relic of the 2000 election. It was then that the late Tim Russert of NBC News focused on the state of Florida for the month-long recount. Russert decided to show Republican states in red, Democratic states in blue, reversing what had been the convention at the time of Ronald Reagan's successive landslides in 1980 and 1984. In those elections, when the networks electoral maps turned as blue as a California swimming pool, it was fun to watch Dan Rather's face turn green.

We are all now used to seeing white board analyses on the cable news channels, focusing almost exclusively on a handful of states. The idea is that both campaigns have conceded dozens of states -- designated blue or red -- to the other camp and are narrowly determined to fight over the so called "swing states."

This is a disservice to the American people. Florida and Ohio are vitally important, to be sure. But we are the United States. We are seeing how Gov. Romney's prospects, when they improve in Ohio, also look better in Michigan and Pennsylvania . In 2008, when then-Sen. Obama carried Ohio , he also was able to be the first Democrat since LBJ to carry Indiana and Virginia. This, and the strong desire of millions of Americans of all parties, races, creeds, and philosophies, is what enabled him to come into office on a tide of goodwill.

The 2008 Obama campaign was thought by some to be a model for the future. So were the 1980 and 1984 Reagan campaigns. The idea of the Electoral College is to bring us together. The Founders designed this system to expand on a narrower popular vote majority -- or even plurality -- and give the newly elected president an expanded mandate.

The Electoral College helps legitimate a president-elect and ease his transition to office.
Consider John F. Kennedy's razor-thin popular vote margin in 1960. He won by barely 114,000 votes over then-Vice President Richard Nixon. It was 49.7% to 49.5%. But in the Electoral College, it was much more emphatic -- 303 for Kennedy to 219 for Nixon. Nixon never challenged the result. Thus, the country was unified at a critical juncture.

The country yearns for unity after a hard-fought campaign. Red State/Blue State thinking can push us apart. Just remember how Blue State/Gray State turned out! Over the next few weeks, the goal for both campaigns should be to unify the nation. Creating a wave election that brings Americans together is possible. It can also help bring in a Senate and House that will back the newly affirmed president.

We now have a chance to restore the true function of the Electoral College. Let's cast aside the white boards and the Red State/Blue State thinking that is tearing us apart. Let both campaigns vie for approval in the Red-White-and-Blue United States of America.