As one of the first presidents of the social media era, his famous Blackberry ever by his side, Barack Obama charmed Silicon Valley during his 2008 election run. In 2012, though, Obama is finding it harder to break through.
The Pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has raised $1.76 million in Silicon Valley. Notable among those donations was one by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen. In 2008, he gave the maximum allowable to Barack Obama’s campaign. This time around, though, he gave $100,000 to Romney’s super PAC.
In this campaign cycle, Obama has been receiving most of his money from a smaller pool of people than in 2008. Current Obama supporters like Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chairman Eric Schmidt have already given the maximum campaign donation of $35,800. Because super PACs have no limit on the monetary amount of individual donations, this puts candidate campaigns at a disadvantage when competing against those organizations.
Unlike John McCain, who made little effort to court Silicon Valley in 2008, Romney has actively sought support from tech tycoons. He has plans to host a fundraising event with $50,000 top-end tickets, and a “ladies lunch” with Ann Romney at Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) CEO John Chambers and wife Elaine’s home. In addition to Chambers and Andreessen’s support, Romney’s super PAC received a $200,000 donation from Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) Chief Meg Whitman.
Why has Obama been struggling, and Romney improving in Silicon Valley? Some point to a maturing tech industry, no longer as dependently Democratic as it had been in years past. They also say that Romney’s economic policies seem to more straight-forwardedly benefit them — no tax increases, and no attempts to regulate the Internet. Contrast that with Obama, who has both talked about unleashing innovation within the tech industry, and then filed antitrust suits against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and stepped up efforts in an antitrust suit against Google.
For his part, Obama has argued that his policies during the recession have benefited the tech industry, and that they have gotten most of what they asked for politically — trade agreements, rejection of House and Senate anti-piracy bills, spectrum and frequency re-allocation, and policies that benefit the small businesses and start-ups that make up a significant chunk of Silicon Valley.
Overall, Obama still has the fundraising touch — $12.9 million raised now versus the $9.1 million at the same point in his campaign four years ago. But he may have to work harder in Silicon Valley to keep those dollars flowing.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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