NEC

James Politi

An Ivy League handover may be in the cards for the post of National Economic Council director, president Barack Obama’s top economic adviser. Departing the White House is Larry Summers, former head of Harvard University, who will be returning to the famed Boston institution to teach, after delivering his farewell speech at the Economic Policy Institute on Monday. Potentially arriving is Rick Levin, an industrial economist – and president of Yale University since 1993 -  who has already been active in Washington and is being considered for the job.

Mr Levin is facing competition from at least two other potential candidates – Roger Altman, the investment banker and former deputy treasury secretary who chairs Evercore Partners, and Gene Sperling, an adviser to the treasury department who recently played a big role in forging the deal with congressional leaders on the Bush tax cuts. There may be others in the mix too.  ”The president is interviewing a number of qualified candidates and no decision has been made,” an administration official said on Tuesday.

Mr Levin would make a good choice for Mr Obama on several levels. 

James Politi

Here’s the latest update on the White House’s search for a replacement for Larry Summers, the departing director of the National Economic Council. As this blog wrote on Monday, Roger Altman, chairman of Evercore and former deputy treasury secretary, is definitely in the mix for the post.

So much so, that he was spotted near the Oval Office on Tuesday as he was about to be interviewed for the job by none other than Barack Obama, US president. Although discussions have gotten pretty serious with Mr Obama, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the job is his, of course, and it is still unclear whether he can be considered the absolute front-runner. 

James Politi

Speculation has been rising in Washington in recent days that Roger Altman, the former deputy treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and chairman of Evercore, the New York financial advisory boutique, is in the mix for the position of National Economic Council director, left open by the departing Larry Summers.

The logic in favour of Mr Altman’s candidacy is undeniable. He already has economic policy experience at the highest levels, which would make him suitable to play the honest-broker role in terms of presenting options and advice to president Barack Obama. But has also spent the last fifteen years in the private sector, not only as leader of his own company but also nurturing relationships with clients including top executives from across the country. This make him an ideal choice if Mr Obama wants to improve relations with the business community over the next two years.

There are potential drawbacks to Mr Altman as NEC director. His appointment may upset the Democratic base, which doesn’t like the continuous return by Mr Obama to Clinton-era officials and would like to see more significant change towards the left in its economic policy thinking.

Then there is the question of whether Mr Altman would want the job.