Our Tech President Endorsements: Barack Obama and John McCain

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It’s sadly clear that our current leaders have little understanding of technology and why it’s important to our economy and culture. That has to change.

We’ve been interviewing 2008 presidential candidates for the last few months to get them to state, on record, their positions on ten key technology related issues (Barack Obama, John McCain, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich).

In December we announced that we were also holding a Tech President primary here at TechCrunch, where readers could vote on the candidate that they thought had the best policies on these ten key issues. The poll ended yesterday, and the results can be seen here. Barack Obama won the Democrat side, with 60% of the votes (John Edwards took second). Ron Paul won the Republican vote with 73% of those votes (John McCain took second).

Those results are meaningful indicators of how our readers feel about the candidates. In addition, taking into account those votes as well as our own analysis, we are endorsing one candidate from each party: Barack Obama for the Democrats and John McCain for the Republicans.

Senator Barack Obama – Democrat

Senator Obama has put more time and effort into defining his technology policies than any other candidate. In November he released a detailed position paper on technology issues, and we had a one-on-one interview with him two weeks later.

He is staunchly in favor of net neutrality, and has promised to make it a priority to reinstate it in his first year in office. He has proposed intelligent programs for increasing technology education and access to children. He doesn’t believe the FCC went far enough in their proposed rules for opening up the 700MHz spectrum auctions. He wants to see increases in the number of H1-B visas given out each year. He strongly supports research into renewable energy sources and he has a realistic, market based approach to capping carbon emissions.

More importantly, though, Senator Obama talks about the future with a sense of optimism that the other candidates seem to lack. America has done great things in the past, and we can do great things in the future, so long as our leaders support our home-grown and immigrant entrepreneurs, or at least get out of the way. Jobs will be lost in some sectors, but growth in technology can drive our economy ever forward. Senator Obama seems to understand that, and has spent a great deal of time addressing technology issues and talking to Silicon Valley leaders. Some of the other Democratic candidates have staked out similar positions as Senator Obama on tech issues – but I get the sense that they are playing “me too” rather than showing real leadership and thoughtfulness on the issues.

Senator Obama also continues to surge when it comes to using the Internet to amplify his voice. I talked about his online surge earlier this month.

Senator Obama is the candidate of optimism and leadership, and he will be getting my personal vote.

Senator John McCain – Republican

Choosing Senator Obama for our Democrat endorsement was relatively easy. We had a lot more trouble with the Republicans. The trouble comes because, based on their positions on the issues, none of them are the perfect candidate. The leading candidates – Romney, Huckabee and McCain – all have flaws. And while Ron Paul won the TechCrunch primary by a very large margin, he too has flawed technology policies – not the least of which is that he is staunchly against net neutrality, and doesn’t want the FCC to get too involved with spectrum allocation rules.

The problems stem from Republicans’ general rule to “let the market decide,” which appeals to my libertarian leanings but can cause real problems in a monopoly-type markets. People tend to have few choices when it comes to Internet or mobile providers. In those cases using government to force a level playing field and open access is what actually stimulates economic growth. Republicans also tend to shy away from “green” issues such as pollution (carbon emissions), and alternative fuel research. Finally, their reluctance to get the Federal government involved directly in education means that they avoid issues like increasing math and science curriculums in public schools, or providing Federal funding or incentives to address the digital divide (in particular, getting computers and Internet into schools). Their resulting policies tend to put off technology focused voters.

Taking all of the Republican candidates positions into consideration, as well as TechCrunch reader voting, we are endorsing Senator McCain as the best candidate from that side of the aisle. Senator McCain, more so than any other Republican candidate, is at least willing to go on record on any issue we brought up in our interview with him.

He is standoffish on net neutrality, mobile spectrum rules and the digital divide. And he has voted against some bills to fund renewable energy research.

But he’s made it clear that he’ll address inequities that arise from his hands-off policies on net neutrality and mobile allocations, which other Republican candidates refuse to do. And his positions on Internet Taxes, H1-B visas, China/human rights violations and other issues are strongly pro-technology. Romney and, to a lesser extent Huckabee, by contrast, have shown little inclination to even discuss their position on these issues.

Senator McCain also has more pure leadership experience than any other candidate running for office. He is the elder statesman of the election, and that experience counts for something. Finally, his pro-business leanings will do much to promote the technology economy in the U.S.

Now, as an aside, McCain did say that he was “illiterate” when it comes to computers, which isn’t uncommon for his generation. His campaign has clarified that position somewhat since then, and it’s clear that McCain has surrounded himself with enough technically savvy individuals that he’s likely to avoid a “series of tubes” type comment down the road. Frankly, I don’t give a damn if McCain ever turns on a computer or not. I just want a president who has the right top-down polices to support the information economy or, as I said above, be smart enough to just get out of our way and let us do our thing.

For additional information resources, check out Yahoo’s Election Dashboard, Political Base and TechPresident (unaffiliated with us).