Tech’s leftist leanings are often cited as the main reason Democrats have excelled in the tech talent battle. Some of Silicon Valley’s marquee names, after all—Eric Schmidt, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Sergey Brin, Marc Benioff, and others—are known Democratic supporters. And while a Libertarian strain certainly runs through the tech industry, San Francisco’s liberal values tend to dominate. As former RNC chief technical officer and Facebook veteran Andy Barkett once put it in The Washington Post, “I knew who was gay on my team at Facebook, but I had no idea who was a Republican.”
But for some, like Zac Moffatt, Romney’s 2012 digital director and founder of the digital shop Targeted Victory, that rationale doesn’t cut it. Conservative tech minds might be a minority, he says, but they do exist, and it doesn’t require that many of them to pull off a campaign. “I don’t need 100,000 engineers,” he says. “I need 100 good ones.”
Moffatt argues, instead, that the difference in the two parties’ ability to recruit tech talent is that one has had the benefit of winning the last two elections. “It’s a lot easier to work for Barack Obama than it was to try to convince someone to work for Mitt Romney, who they might not have known,” he says.
Obama’s incumbent status meant that members of his tech team, many of whom had already worked together and operated under a common philosophy, could get a jumpstart on building technology for the general election. Romney’s team, meanwhile, had to weather a primary cycle and ramp up almost instantly once he won the nomination. And though Hillary Clinton isn’t technically an incumbent, she’s been the expected frontrunner for her party since before she even announced she was running. The Republican party, on the other hand, has been splintered throughout primary season and dominated by unexpected frontrunners like Donald Trump and Ben Carson.