MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — The debate over how to create jobs has moved to Silicon Valley, where the president and Republican leaders were each taking to the Internet to trumpet their agendas and win over young voters.
After a series of fundraisers Sunday on the West Coast, President Barack Obama headlined a town-hall-style meeting Monday through LinkedIn, the professional social networking site. A few hours later across town, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, planned to join two other GOP leaders at a town hall at Facebook.
The visits spotlight how important social media is in the run up to the 2012 election. They also reinforce the value placed on the high tech sector in growing the economy.
And, in a time of acrimony and combativeness in Washington, the appearances reflect an attitude shared by many business leaders here that pragmatism matters more than partisanship when it comes to fixing the ailing economy.
“The Valley is open to the best ideas, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans,” said Dean Garfield, president and chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, which lobbies for Apple Inc., Google Inc. and other tech companies.
While a majority of the region’s voters supported Obama in 2008, Garfield said there is some disappointment over the president’s effectiveness and “a lot of openness and curiosity” about how the Republican’s agenda aligns with the tech sector.
The event at Facebook is not open to the media. Cantor; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield; and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, will answer questions submitted by the site’s members starting at 3 p.m. PDT.
Obama did a town-hall-style meeting at Facebook in April and tweeted from the White House in July. The appearance hosted by LinkedIn entrenches the president further among the high tech movers and shakers and allows him to reach out again to millions of young professionals who vote.
Employees at Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp., Google and Stanford were among the top groups of donors to Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
With its focus on professional development, LinkedIn also marks the perfect place for Obama to campaign for his $447 billion jobs plan. LinkedIn also represents a bright spot in dark times. When it went public in May, its shares closed at more than double the IPO price.
The issues that tend to resonate most with Silicon Valley professionals that are likely to be brought up at the town-hall meetings are education, tax reform, immigration and trade. The unemployment rate in the Valley hovers around 10 percent, slightly above the national average.
“We need to be more economically competitive with the rest of the world,” said Carl Guardino, president and chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The U.S. must improve its education system while also removing barriers to bringing the best and the brightest from other countries, he said.
The LinkedIn event at 11 a.m. PDT was expected to draw around 300 people, mostly company members, employees and customers. It was taking place at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.