John Adams expanded the war powers by waging undeclared war, Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of Louisiana from France, and James Monroe took direct control of foreign policymaking when he issued the Monroe Doctrine.
There are many problems with the Electoral College. First, small states are over-represented in the Electoral College. Second, the state by state set-up of the college, in the modern era, leads to states that are safe wins for one party, leaving a handful of states that get all the attention. Finally, its outcomes can differ from the outcome of actual citizen voting (also known as the national popular vote.
Presidents of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries might make speeches or publish letters in newspapers across the country. These methods may have been effective in their day, but not in comparison to the ability of modern presidents with television, radio, and the Internet at their disposal.
Presidents can use road trips across the country, major speeches, and rewards to people in their camp. Historically, however, these techniques have only rarely been successful. What works best is for a president find a popular position to get out in front of.