What does a Californian have to do to get the most important job in the world?

It’s a relevant question since Janet Yellen, a longtime UC Berkeley economist who served as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and now is #2 at the Federal Reserve, is a contender to be Fed chairman.

Yellen has a record that would seem to make her a shoo-in. Born in Brooklyn, she came to California for her academic career and produced vital, groundbreaking scholarship. She did distinguished service as a top economist in the Clinton administration. She had a solid tenure at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco And she’s demonstrated judgment during difficult recent times, both on the housing bubble and in response to Great Recession.

Instead, Yellen seems to be a bit of an underdog against former Treasury Secretary and former top Obama economic advisor Larry Summers. The contest between the two has become quite a debate. And viewed from California, it’s very strange.

Summers is widely described, at least by his supporters, as the bigger brain, the grander figure. Yellen is described as if she were some competent but unremarkable consensus builder, who is somehow unknown or enigmatic.

Yellen’s defenders have criticized Summers and described this treatment of Yellen as a matter of gender politics; President Obama’s White House is a bit of a boys club, and many of those boys are sticking up for their former colleague Summers.

There certainly appears to be some of that in the debate, but I wonder if the marginalization of Yellen goes beyond man vs. woman stuff. Is there something about spending so much of your career in California that permits Washington DC types to dismiss you as some sort of unknown outlier?

Yellen is clearly the best choice for the job. And that’s just on her own merits, and does not account for Summers’ temperament and record of missing big on the housing bubble and late ‘90s deregulation.

If she doesn’t get the job, it won’t just be the wrong choice. It’ll be a slight against our state.