The race to replace Gary Cohn as Trump’s top economic adviser is heating up — and 2 big names have become the frontrunners


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Gary Cohn.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
  • Rumors are already flying about who will replace Gary Cohn as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser.
  • CNBC’s Jim Cramer reported on Monday that Larry Kudlow, with whom Cramer hosted a show from 2002 to 2005, was the frontrunner.
  • The New York Times reported on Saturday that Christopher Liddell, a former executive at Microsoft and General Motors now working in the White House, was the frontrunner.
  • Trump’s pick will be a major indicator of his economic agenda going forward.

The race to replace Gary Cohn as the director of the National Economic Council appears to have been narrowed down to one leading candidate.

According to CNBC’s Jim Cramer, Larry Kudlow is the frontrunner for the job. Kudlow, who hosted a CNBC show with Cramer from 2002 to 2005, was previously floated for other economic jobs in the Trump administration.

Separately, a source who has advised Trump on economic issues told Business Insider last week that Kudlow was a leading candidate for the job.

Multiple reports later Monday suggested that Trump is homing in on Kudlow, who long supported Trump during the 2016 campaign.

A White House spokesperson told Business Insider there were no personnel announcements at this time.

Kudlow served as a staff economist during the Reagan administration, was the chief economist for Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994, and has regularly appeared on CNBC since 2001.

The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman and Jim Tankersley reported Saturday that Christopher Liddell was considered the leading candidate for the job. But, Haberman tweeted Monday that Trump cooled on Liddell after a Wall Street Journal editorial blasting the candidate and pushback from other advisors.

Liddell, the White House’s director of strategic initiatives, was previously the CFO of Microsoft and General Motors.

Investors and economists are closely watching the pick, as it could indicate the direction of Trump’s economic agenda, particularly now with trade. Cohn was seen as a free-trade advocate who pushed back on Trump’s desires for large tariffs and trade restrictions, and a replacement favoring trade barriers could set off concern that Trump will lean into his protectionist tendencies.

Kudlow, who has been critical of Trump’s approach to trade, recently blasted the president’s decision to impose broad tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. If he is selected, Kudlow is likely to fill a void of pro-free-trade advocates that has developed in the White House over the past few months.

Liddell’s economic views are less clear, but according to The Times, he told a New Zealand journalist after Trump’s election that “the days of unbridled free trade and unbridled free markets are over.”

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