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Meg Whitman, beaten in politics and business, still has a big fan

August 27, 2012|By Mark Z. Barabak
  • Hewlett Packard CEO and President Meg Whitman during a conference on the Stanford University campus.
Hewlett Packard CEO and President Meg Whitman during a conference on the… (Paul Sakuma / AP Photo )

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — She may have lost her bid for California governor in epic fashion, blowing a record fortune and growing increasingly less popular as the campaign wore on.

The company she's now running just reported a loss of $8.86 billion, a quarterly record, and earlier this year announced plans to lay off 27,000 people.

But the sun still shines brightly on Meg Whitman as far as Mitt Romney, her friend and business mentor, is concerned.

In a pre-convention interview with Politico, the GOP nominee-to-be said his Cabinet would be chock full of private-sector experience, "citing Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard as a model for female leaders he would like to surround himself with."

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The two have a long-standing relationship, going back to their time in the 1980s at Bain & Co. Romney generously contributed to Whitman's ill-fated 2010 run for governor, and Whitman has hosted fundraisers for both of Romney's presidential bids. Staffers have passed back and forth between the Whitman and Romney camps.

However, the H-P chief executive is not necessarily an unalloyed asset for the Romney campaign.

Apart from the layoffs she announced as part of H-P's turnaround effort, Whitman has a problem with Latino voters, due not just to her tough talk on illegal immigration — a stance that has caused Romney similar problems — but the firing of a longtime Mexican housekeeper who was in the country illegally.

The episode not only opened Whitman to charges of hypocrisy — she said she did not know the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, was an undocumented immigrant — but also insensitivity for her abrupt dismissal of the woman — who Whitman described as a close part of her family — in the midst of the campaign.

Playing what-if, the question is whether Romney would want to open his presidency with a confirmation fight certain, if Democrats have their way, to bring up questions involving domestic help (Zoe Baird, anyone?) and the treatment of illegal immigrants.

For her part,  Whitman and her husband, Griff,  arrived at the Tradewinds resort in St. Pete Beach late Saturday, and have been mingling with the California delegation since. She was spotted taking a swim at the beachfront resort on Sunday, and Monday morning introduced New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a delegation breakfast.

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mark.barabak@latimes.com

Twitter: @markzbarabak

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