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McCain woos techies at AlwaysOn Conference

Presidential hopeful calls on Silicon Valley to help combat Islamic extremism and global warming.

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Republican presidential candidate John McCain asked the technology sector for help fighting "Islamic extremism" and global warming at a conference here on Wednesday.

McCain said extremists are "taking advantage of cyberspace" in new ways that will require U.S. technologists to help find better tools to thwart their efforts.

Greg Sandoval/CNET

The senator from Arizona also said he's convinced global warming is real. He thanked the gathering at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit for their efforts in developing green technologies.

"We can have debate about how serious (climate change) is," McCain said, "but what will help us prevent further damage to the planet is people like you."

McCain is winging around the country as he tries to quell a recent firestorm of bad press. Reports that McCain's campaign coffers are running out of money and the exodus of several senior campaign leaders has apparently hurt his poll numbers.

The American Research Group released July presidential poll figures this week and they indicate that during the past month the senator has lost half his support in New Hampshire, the first primary state.

But in Silicon Valley, McCain was greeted warmly and was applauded several times.

There were a few murmurs when the senator said that if elected president, he would support greater adoption of nuclear energy--even if it was "in my backyard."

"Nuclear power is safe," McCain declared. "The French generate 80 percent of their energy from nuclear. We know how we all try to imitate the French."

McCain was partly kidding, but he was gravely serious when he said that reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil wasn't just good for the environment but that it also helped stop terrorism.

To prove his point, McCain spoke of a foiled plot to blow up a refinery in the Middle East, that had the plan succeeded, would have sent gas prices skyrocketing and would have certainly hurt the country's economy.

He was asked several times to provide details about how he would tackle global warming. His answer was to start by keeping the government out of the equation as much as possible.

"I would simply let 1,000 flowers bloom," he said. "I'd like 1,000 of the best and smartest people to compete and I'd fund their efforts."