Vice President Whitman?

Following her decade tenure as chairman and CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman looks to have a bright political future ahead of her.

Whitman, who built eBay from a fledgling online auction play with an unproven business model into an e-commerce powerhouse today worth some $32 billion, has solidified her place in Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s inner circle.

On Saturday, McCain told the prominent California pastor Rick Warren that Whitman was one of the wisest people he knew, right along with Gen. David Petraeus and the civil rights leader John Lewis.

Whitman’s star rose a little higher when she was handed a prominent speaking position at the upcoming Republican convention. While she is cagey about her own political aspirations, insisting that her role is to support McCain, Whitman has long been rumored a potential candidate for a run for governor in California in 2010.

But following the glowing praise McCain lavished on her over the weekend, Whitman’s name is now being whispered as a dark horse for a different position, namely McCain’s running mate.

It’s a long shot, to be sure — Petraeus and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appear the front-runners, along with Joe Lieberman, the quasi-independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, who has been at McCain’s side for a good chunk of his campaign. Even for Maverick McCain, Whitman would be a surprising choice.

She is now serving his campaign as an economic advisor, and back when Romney was still in the primary mix, Whitman was seen as a potential appointee to serve as Secretary of Commerce. Whitman of course is a longtime chum of Mitt Romney, dating back to her time as a vice president at Romney’s consultancy Bain & Co.

So if Romney got the nod as Veep, a Whitman cabinet spot in a McCain presidency wouldn’t be at all surprising. Both Whitman and Romney bring McCain a level of economic savvy that could prove a valuable asset in his fight against Barack Obama, who enjoys a healthy lead in the polls on economic issues.

Of course, Petraeus would bring a very different cast to the McCain ticket. Bringing the general, whom McCain describes as “one of the great military leaders in American history,” on board would stack the foreign policy deck even more heavily in favor of the Republican.

But with the every day bringing a fresh batch of dismal domestic economic indicators (today’s: Lehman to be bailed out by South Korean buyout?), it’s hard to see this election turning on foreign policy. Does the obscure fate of South Ossetia really matter more to us than the pain of $4 for a gallon of gas?

So looking past Romney, Whitman, a celebrated Silicon Valley icon, wouldn’t be the worst choice. How much would her lack of political experience matter against her deserved reputation as a skilled operator who for a decade was one of the leading lights in an industry famously short on top-level female executives? In that same sentence, of course, belongs Carly Fiorina, who is chairing McCain’s campaign, but Whitman has the notable advantage of a squeaky clean track record and a [departure](/bus-news/article.php/3723521) that was entirely on her own terms.

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