Long after he leaves office, President Obama's influence on the economy will remain - in the form of his choice to chair the powerful Federal Reserve.
Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely retire when his term expires in January, and Obama must pick his successor - who will the endure what will likely be a rough Senate confirmation process.
Two leading contenders have emerged: Janet Yellen, the current vice chair of the Fed, and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. There may be other candidates, but Yellen and Summers, at this point, are the favorites.
Yellen is the Fed's vice chair and has helped develop the policies of current chairman Ben Bernanke -- a point made by both supporters and critics.
Many Democrats back Yellen; a petition is circulating in the Senate urging her selection. But Summers - Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration and Obama's top economic advisor for two years - has powerful allies as well. One strike against Summers: a reputation for arrogance that has rubbed some the wrong way.
And the gender issue is in play. Obama is being pressured to pick more women for top government positions. The New York Times notes that the battle between Yellen, a former professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and Summers, "is coming down to a battle between the California girls and the Rubin boys."
The gender issue is especially relevant for Summers. As president of Harvard University, he was forced to resign in 2006 after suggesting that gender differences might explain why there are so few female scientists. Summers has been on the defensive for those remarks ever since and women in the Senate, who would determine his fate if nominated, would certainly give him a piece of their collective mind.
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