Playing to the hometown crowd is a time-honored tradition in politics.
When Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were campaigning earlier this year in economically depressed Ohio, which has seen many manufacturing jobs go overseas, both talked smack about the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Similarly, during recent appearances in Silicon Valley, home to some of the biggest proponents of increasing H-1B visa limits, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain talked up free trade and immigration reform. He defended both NAFTA and a new U.S.-Colombia trade pact opposed by Congressional Democrats, reports the Arizona Republic.
Though much of California is traditionally a Democratic stronghold, McCain has lined up some powerful allies there, including Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.
Immigration reform should be a "top agenda item," McCain told attendees of a round-table discussion on high-tech innovation co-hosted by Chambers and Whitman. Though Union City, Calif., Mayor Mark Green, a Democrat, didn't seem to think McCain had made much headway in California, he did think he made some good points about immigration. Says Green:
I agree that there's no need for the United States to have an inferiority complex when it comes to competing. We have to find a way to get more people trained and educated in the United States and not be afraid that we can't compete for jobs. If we admit that, we might as well just run up the white flag.
Yet despite these appearances, McCain still has some catching up to do if he hopes to gain the kind of support the tech industry has shown for Obama, who late last year introduced a nine-page technology plan encompassing such issues as wireless spectrums, broadband access, network neutrality and immigration.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama has raised about $5 million in Silicon Valley, compared to McCain's $800,000. Brian Peters, a director of government relations at the Information Technology Industry Council, tells the Journal that Obama "talks our talk extremely well."