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I know who the next Fed Chairman will be

August 7, 2013: 10:32 AM ET

Summers or Yellen? I have the answer.

130807091346-yellen-summers-fed-614xaFORTUNE -- Who will be the next head of the Federal Reserve: Larry Summers or Janet Yellen? I have the answer. Really.

How do I know? Because, as you may know, predicting who will be the next Fed chair is easy.

In November 2004, the Associated Press said there were three economists who were likely to replace then-Fed head Alan Greenspan, none of which were Ben Bernanke. The article called Bernanke a "dark horse." In December, the New York Times said Glenn Hubbard, a Columbia University economist and former George W. Bush adviser, was the obvious frontrunner.

MORE: Investors who love QE should fear Summers

By January, Paul Krugman in the New York Times had Bernanke as a possibility, but only because Harvard economist Martin Feldstein was being pilloried by Republicans for once criticizing Ronald Reagan. But Feldstein was back in front by May, according to Businessweek. Fortune's own Justin Fox wrote in October, shortly before Bernanke was finally picked, that it didn't really matter who replaced Greenspan. The so-called great moderation -- there was an idea that deep recessions were a thing of the past -- and advances in economic theory had pretty much put Fed policy on autopilot. Wrote Fox: "Being Fed chairman isn't that hard anymore." How's that for being above the fray?

I'm not going to make the same mistake, which is why I have put so much effort into predetermining without a doubt who will get the top job at the Fed.

According to a cursory scan of the work of other journalists, it appears Yellen did a good job warning about the housing bubble. Summers did a good job of responding to it when it burst, although some people say his push to deregulate financial markets when he was Treasury Secretary in the 1990s caused the problems in the first place. So edge to Yellen, I guess.

Yellen is one of the authors of quantitative easing -- the Fed's signature bond buying stimulus program -- which has lowered interest rates and boosted the stock market. The housing market and business lending are also up. It has not caused hyper-inflation as some feared it might. Summers, on the other hand, has repeatedly bashed QE, alternating between saying it does nothing, to expounding on the disasters it could cause. Still, Summers' supporters say he would be all for continuing QE if he were to be named Fed chairman. So point to Summers for flexibility.

MORE: Sheila Bair: Why Yellen should succeed Bernanke

Yellen is a consensus builder. Summers is willing to ruffle feathers and go against the grain. Point. Point.

But, of course, none of that matters. What really matters is who has your back. So the thing you really need to know to be able to determine, as I have, who will be the next Fed head is the tally of economists, former administration officials, politicians, and just regular blabbermouths who have so far come out in favor of Summers or Yellen.

Economists are overwhelmingly in Yellen's camp, especially female ones. But what we learned from the financial crisis, and what is dogma in Washington, is that economists often don't know what they are talking about, especially when it comes to economics.

What really, really matters is who has come out for Summers vs. Yellen, not how many. Here's where my scientific, quantitative, regression analysis comes into play: I took all the supporters of Summers and Yellen, and gave them an influence score. The scores range from 1 to 0.

I gave President Obama, for instance, the top influence score of 1 -- he makes the choice after all -- and at least for now he seems in Summers' corner. Former Obama officials got relatively high scores. Economists got lower and lower influence scores the further they are geographically from Washington, because that makes sense.

Journalists, as always, were near the bottom. Ron Paul, if he had called me back, would have got an influence score of 0, because I assume his answer for whom Bernanke's successor would be no one.

I then plugged all those numbers into Excel, which we know is infallible, and here's what I got: The next head of the Fed will be Mr. Larry Summers, who got a score of 4.9. But it was a squeaker. Yellen's final tally was 4.7. Congrats, Larry. Call me.

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About This Author
Stephen Gandel
Stephen Gandel

Stephen Gandel has covered Wall Street and investing for over 15 years. He joins Fortune from sister publication TIME, where he was a senior business writer and lead blogger for The Curious Capitalist. He has also held positions at Money and Crain's New York Business. Stephen is a four-time winner of the Henry R. Luce Award. His work has also been recognized by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the New York State Society of CPA and the Association of Area Business Publications. He is a graduate of Washington University, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

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