Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former top HP executive Carly Fiorina are both being talked about as possible administration officials under Mitt Romney should the former Massachusetts governor win the presidency in November.
However, while Fiorina did not back away from taking on a position in a Romney administration, Whitman reportedly has said she plans to continue her efforts to turn around an embattled HP.
According to a report in MarketWatch, Whitman was approached by a reporter Aug. 28 outside the Tampa Convention Center in Florida, during the Republican National Convention where Romney was officially nominated as the party's candidate to challenge incumbent President Barack Obama. When asked if she would consider serving in a Romney administration, she said no.
"When I joined HP, I said that I would stay through this turnaround. I knew if Mitt won, I would not be able to join a Romney administration," she said, according to MarketWatch. "So I'm completely committed to HP."
That report came two days after a similar story on the Politico news Website, which quoted Romney as saying that Whitman, a longtime supporter, would be a good fit as a cabinet member in his administration. A spokesman for Whitman told Politico that the CEO is "committed to staying at HP as long as the turnaround is ongoing." Even Romney admitted that Whitman probably would not leave the struggling tech giant, saying that "Hewlett Packard is not going to let her go, and she wouldn't leave them in the lurch."
Fiorina was less reticent. The one-time HP CEO, who now is co-chair of Romney's campaign in California, said during an economic forum Aug. 28 that "obviously that would be a great honor" to be named as Treasury secretary in a Romney administration, according to Politco. However, she said there is a lot of work to be done before that can be considered.
"I think priorities are important," Fiorina said. "Right now we've got to get this man elected so that we can move forward and make some of these very important and I think now quite dramatic changes in our economy. So I, like my colleagues, here right now are focused on winning an election here."
Romney is scheduled to give his acceptance speech at the convention in Tampa Aug. 30.
Both Whitman and Fiorina failed in political bids in California in 2010. Whitman ran for governor, reportedly spending $140 million of her own money in the campaign, before losing to the state's current governor, Democrat Jerry Brown. For her part, Fiorina fell short in her race to unseat longtime U.S. Sen, Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.). In both races, Whitman and Fiorina pushed strong conservative platforms in a state that tends to lean left.
Whitman was appointed HP CEO last year, replacing Leo Apotheker after a rocky 11-month tenure. She inherited a company that has been losing value for several years, dogged in large part by a stagnant PC market that is under attack by new devices such as tablets and smartphones. Soon after assuming control of HP, Whitman reversed Apotheker's decision to spin off the PC business, though given recent market numbers, at least one analyst said the company should revisit the idea.
HP also has seen weakness in other parts of the company, including services, and Whitman announced in May that part of her plan to turn HP around is cutting as many as 27,000 jobs-about 8 percent of the workforce-over the next two years.
Fiorina was HP's CEO from 1999 to 2005, with her signature moment being the company's $19 billion acquisition of rival Compaq in 2002, a move that signaled the tech giant's intention to double its efforts in the PC market.