Mary Anne Ostrom
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, an informal adviser to Barack Obama for several months, is joining the Democratic nominee on the campaign trail.
Schmidt will appear Tuesday with Obama in the tightly contested state of Florida to talk about the economy.
Although Schmidt announced his backing of Obama in Monday's Wall Street Journal, he has been advising the campaign on technology and clean-energy issues for most of the summer.
For years, Schmidt was a major Democratic fundraiser and high-profile supporter of Democratic candidates, notably 2000 presidential candidate Al Gore, who now serves as a senior adviser to Google.
But Schmidt has kept a low partisan profile during the 2008 campaign, offering up Mountain View's Google headquarters to all the presidential candidates for both parties during the primaries.
Earlier in the year, he made supportive comments for energy independence plans proposed by both Obama and Hillary Clinton. Schmidt also showed up at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where he spoke to a group of bloggers whose convention-reporting headquarters were partly paid for by Google.
As Google grows, so does its interest in government. The Justice Department has yet to issue a ruling on Google's proposed ad-sharing deal with Yahoo, which some legislators believe would give Google too much control over online advertising rates. The company also has lobbied on issues such as net neutrality; it opposes allowing telecommunications companies to set different rates for slower or faster levels of Internet service.
A statement from Google said the company "of course remains neutral" in the presidential race.
As for Schmidt, the statement continues,
"he believes that it is time for a change in America. In addition, his
personal views on technology and energy are similar to Senator Obama's."
Online fundraising records indicate that among Google employees, Obama is much more popular than GOP rival John McCain.
McCain has enlisted former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired eBay CEO Meg Whitman to join him on the campaign trail. Fiorina, however, has been sidelined after suggesting none of the presidential or vice presidential nominees had enough experience to run a major corporation such as HP.
Already, Schmidt's decision to take a higher profile role in the campaign has caused a stir about his future. The Journal piece speculated that perhaps Schmidt, who joined Google as CEO in 2001, might be interested in becoming Obama's chief technology officer, a position Obama said he would create if elected.
Of Schmidt's future, "I can say he has no interest in the position,'' said Adam Kovacevich, a Washington D.C.-based spokesman for Google.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008