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Presidential candidates talking technology concerns? Don't hold your breath

IT chiefs worldwide have no idea who the "IT candidate" for president is. Not that there is one.

If CIOs and IT managers around the world could pick the next American president, Hillary Clinton might win in a landslide.

That's the word from a stray question on a wide-ranging survey conducted recently by The Computing Technology Industry Association Inc. (CompTIA) that raises more questions than it answers.

Of course, it's all an exercise. What an IT director in Poland thinks of this country's presidential candidates isn't likely to sway the polls.

Then again, the results, culled from 14 countries, are just bizarre enough to give pause.

The question, as it was phrased to the 3,500 or so survey respondents, read: "Which 2008 presidential candidate do you believe would be best for the growth of the IT industry worldwide?"

About 37% of people taking the survey saw the futility of it all and selected "don't know." And about 10% tapped into the barely concealed rage and apathy so many Americans feel and selected "none of the candidates."

Around 25% picked Clinton. Al Gore came in second with about 9%, but at least he can say he lost by popular vote. Barack Obama, who apparently is just about anointed, only pulled third, with about 8% or so.

Then comes a short train of apparently unloved Republicans, with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson each garnering less than 5%. About 1% fell under "other." John McCain, go figure, is nowhere to be found.

What's so hard here is trying to figure out why CIOs and the like seem to think Clinton is the "pro-IT" candidate. How on earth did the Democrats emerge as the world technology and economy party when the two remaining presidential candidates spent February trying to out-hate each other on NAFTA?

CompTIA did include some insight in the form of transcribed interview segments from survey respondents. One Canadian, before ultimately choosing Obama, was up for "anyone but Bush."

Still, the respondents seem to be guessing, at best. One IT leader at a U.S. midmarket company chose Clinton "and then perhaps Fred Thompson, I guess."


"Some of the initiatives and even though she'd be on her own, I think some of the initiatives that Bill Clinton implemented when he was president kind of said that he was a friend of technology people."

Here's an American who selected Giuliani: "Well, the only reason I've gone with him is I think that his strategy of putting the right people around him who are experts potentially would allow for this to potentially happen, so you put a good person in charge of Chamber of Commerce and of Technology that maybe somebody would be involved and have the background in IT."

The president, by the way, does not run the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but the above statement says less about the speaker's political intelligence and more about the fact that he's probably a really nice guy who was valiantly reaching for a decent answer to a question that doesn't have one.

With words like I guess and perhaps, these aren't exactly the answers of people who have thoroughly researched the candidates' views on technology concerns.

Then again, why would they? How could they?

After all, surfing the websites of presidential candidates will turn up, I kid you not, Fred Thompson's "white paper" on "Traditional American Values," though his site is down now. The candidates have really jumped on the Web 2.0 thing. I actually Facebooked Clinton.

But that's about as far as technology goes with them. Every candidate maintains some sort of "issues" tab on his or her website. Only Obama has a section titled Technology. It's actually pretty good. Obama supports Net neutrality, writes a bit about information privacy and, get this, is threatening to appoint the nation's first CTO. If you're a CIO right now, you're trying to weigh the pension against the nightmare that job would be.

It's not as if Obama is out there talking all of this up, though. Or if he is, it's not making it through the media filter. We all know how important the issues CIOs confront each day really are. But there's no sense in looking for a candidate who does as well.

The best you can do, wherever you are, is guess.

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