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Obama defends his defense of Summers

President Obama defended his defense of Larry Summers as a potential pick to head the Federal Reserve, while insisting he has not settled on a new central bank head Friday.

Speaking at a press conference, Obama said picking the next Fed head is "one of the most important economic decisions I'll make in the remainder of my presidency."

"This, along with Supreme Court appointments, is probably as important a decision as I make as president," he added.

The president insisted he had not settled on a candidate to replace Ben Bernanke, widely expected to be leaving the Fed at the beginning of 2014. And he suggested that the two most widely discussed candidates, Summers and Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen, were not the only names in the running.

"I have a range of outstanding candidates," he said, before adding that both Yellen and Summers are "highly qualified candidates."

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Obama made news in July when, during a trip to Capitol Hill to meet privately with Democrats, he responded to a spate of criticism against Summers that emerged following reports the president was considering him to take over the Fed.

But he argued Friday that defending Summers did not mean he had the inside track on the job, merely that the president thought Summers had done a good job as his former top economic adviser.

"When somebody's worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people ... and I see them getting slapped around in the press for no reason before they've even been nominated for anything, then I want to make sure that somebody is standing up for him," he said. "I tend to defend folks who I think have done a god job and don't deserve attacks."

Obama equated his defense of Summers with his defense of Susan Rice, the former U.N. ambassador who was believed to be a strong candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State. Rice did not get that job, withdrawing her name from consideration amid tough GOP questions over her statements in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

The president went on to reiterate what he is looking for in his next Fed nominee, emphasizing he wants an individual who can manage both inflation and unemployment.

"My main criteria for the Fed Reserve chairman is somebody who understands they've got a dual mandate," he said.

He added that he would announce a decision sometime in the fall.