Meg Whitman for California Governor?

An associate says Whitman is preparing to run for governor.

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SAN FRANCISCO—Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief and onetime adviser to John McCain's presidential campaign, appears to have moved one step closer toward announcing a run for governor of California.

After resigning as CEO of eBay last March, Whitman, who was awarded one of the prime-time speaking slots at the Republican National Convention this summer, also removed herself this week from the rest of the corporate boards she has been serving on, including the boards of Procter & Gamble and DreamWorks Animation.

One of Whitman's close associates told the San Jose Mercury News that this deliberate shedding of corporate baggage was "a clear signal" that Whitman, 52, is preparing to run for governor. The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said Whitman intends to announce her decision sometime next month.

A Whitman spokesperson insisted that she had stepped down from the corporate boards "for personal reasons," saying Whitman "wanted to clear her calendar of obligations in the new year. In terms of her political ambitions, I cannot comment."

Political analysts here say Whitman, a billionaire entrepreneur with unrivaled corporate credentials and business know-how, could be an imposing figure in the battle to replace Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. Whitman joined eBay in 1998, when it was still a fledgling Internet startup, stepping down as CEO 10 years later after building the company into a global giant with $7.7 billion in revenue. She built a personal fortune along the way—Forbes estimated her net worth in 2007 at $1.4 billion—which could be helpful in a lengthy political campaign.

In spite of her business success, Whitman, who depicted herself as an antitax crusader in her speech at the RNC, still doesn't have widespread name recognition in the state. But a poll conducted in November did find that Whitman had a higher favorability rating than any of the other Republican contenders for governor, including Tom Campbell, a former U.S. congressman and dean of the business school at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley, and Steve Poizner, a former Silicon Valley executive who now serves as the state's insurance commissioner.

Should she choose to run, Whitman would also face an impressive field of Democrats, all of whom have far more political experience than she does. Dianne Feinstein, a longtime U.S. senator, is widely considered the front-runner in the race, though now that Feinstein has taken over the coveted chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee, it is unclear whether she would want to seek another office in the state.

Among the other Democrats who may throw their hats in the ring are Jerry Brown, the state's attorney general and former governor, and Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco.