Fred Thompson, the former U.S. senator, Republican presidential candidate and movie star was in Richmond this week to push an effort to ensure the presidency goes to the winner of the most overall votes in all 50 states.
The National Popular Vote initiative retains the Electoral College, but changes the rules so that electoral votes are awarded based on who receives the most popular votes in the 50 states and the District.
“It makes the vote in one state amount to the same vote in another state,’’ Thompson said in an interview at the state Capitol.
Supporters argue their proposal will force presidential candidates to give more attention to all states and not just the 15 or so battleground states, like Florida, Ohio and now Virginia, where in past elections they have spent 98 percent of their time.
“This is the presidency of the United States, not the presidency of the battleground states,’’ said businessman Tom Golisano, who became the effort’s national spokesman in February.
Four times in U.S. history, a candidate has won the presidency without winning the most votes. Once, the electoral college vote was a ties, and the House took over.
Thompson, along with former Illinois governor Jim Edgar (R) and former Iowa governor Chet Culver (D) are part of a bipartisan coalition that has endorsed the National Popular Vote. The initiative would go into effect in 2016 if states representing 270 electoral votes pass legislation.
The National Popular Vote bill has been signed into law in seven states — Maryland, Hawaii, Washington, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont — and the District of Columbia, representing 29 percent of the votes necessary for the compact to go into effect.
California’s legislature passed the bill. If it is signed by the governor’s signature, the initiative would have 133 electoral votes, or just under half what is needed.
“There’s no reason for it to be either a Democrat or Republican, a conservative or liberal issue,’’ Thompson said..
Will Virginia lawmakers go for it?
No word yet. Thompson and Golisano spent two days meeting with legislators from both political parties and had a sitdown Wednesday with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
“He is clearly well informed on the subject,’’ Thompson said of the governor, who he supported in 2009. “He asked several good questions about it. He said he would take it under consideration — which is all we would ask him to do.”
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, who endorsed Thompson for president in 2008, said “the governor truly appreciated hearing Fred’s take on the issue. It was a pleasant and enjoyable visit with a great friend.”
Thompson, now a McLean resident who tells us his days of elected office are over, said he has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential race, and is not sure if he will.
“I haven’t gone there yet in terms of making a decision,’’ he said. “I have a great deal of respect for anyone who is willing to throw their hat into the ring and I think we ought to give them the chance to stretch their legs and try it out and see how they do and see how they hold up.”
But he does plan to campaign for his former colleague, George Allen, in his bid to capture his seat in the U.S. Senate next year, for and his longtime friend and current legislator, Barbara Comstock,who is running for re-election to the House of Delegates.