(Bloomberg) -- One man, in the eyes of Donald Trump, is a “money machine.” The other is a guy named “Scott.”

Each of them, if November’s election breaks the ex-president’s way, could be America’s next Treasury secretary.

The “money machine” is John Paulson, who famously made $15 billion betting against subprime mortgages. He’s the only person Trump has floated publicly for Treasury, and in private he’s said the two of them — both born in Queens, both familiar with messy divorces and legal fights, both with homes in Florida’s Palm Beach — are philosophically aligned. 

But it’s “Scott” — that’s Scott Bessent, former Soros Fund Management chief investment officer and current head of macro hedge fund Key Square Capital Management — who’s increasingly catching the attention of Trump’s inner circle, and, recently, even the ex-president himself after several meetings this year at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump came close to name-checking Bessent in a rally in New Jersey on Saturday, referencing a letter the money manager wrote to his clients saying he was betting on a “Trump rally” in stocks — one he said would continue as long as investors believed that the former president would win the general election.

“The one thing that’s doing well is the stock market, you know why it’s doing well, because I’m leading in every single poll,” Trump said. “And it’s been written about by Scott...” 

He paused. 

“...some of the great people, they’re writing that.”

Four days later, in a post on his Truth Social, Trump acknowledged Bessent in full.

“Thank you to Scott Bessent, one of the Great Prognosticators on Wall Street!” he wrote. There was no mention of Treasury.

Enormous Responsibility

While Ken Griffin and other megadonors are focusing on Trump’s vice presidential pick, for those on Wall Street angling for a spot in a second Trump administration, following in the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton is an alluring public service job. 

Treasury secretaries have enormous responsibility over the global economy. They wade through political thickets in Washington, spearhead international economic diplomacy, and bring Wall Street know-how to crisis situations that require them to get into the financial system’s plumbing. At the same time, they must imbue predictability and stability — sometimes through their own personal gravitas — that keeps investors at peace. 

The role, fifth in the presidential line of succession, also means a private plane, meeting world leaders and hopping into secure facilities to deal with national security issues. Any given day can require focusing on economic sanctions, the Internal Revenue Service, financial regulation or whose face should be on US currency. The Treasury chief is also traditionally the liaison between the White House and the Federal Reserve.

Both Paulson, 68, and Bessent, 61, have demurred when asked if they want the job, calling it premature. They both declined to comment for this story. And it’s far from certain they’re the only potential candidates.

“When President Trump wins in November, President Trump will be the one who announces who he appoints,” said Brian Hughes, a spokesperson for the campaign.

Both men, though, have shown signs they’re interested.

Paulson’s jockeying has mostly come via his checkbook. A member of Trump’s economic advisory council in 2016, he has personally given $817,900 to support Trump, and helped raise more than $50 million at a gathering at his Palm Beach home. Collecting twice as much as President Joe Biden had a week earlier was seen as a turning point for Trump’s fundraising, and the first sign that Wall Street was coming around to supporting the former president.

Another fundraiser in New York this week hosted by Howard Lutnick gathered a core group of Trump’s finance backers, including Paulson, Woody Johnson and Omeed Malik, and raised more than $10 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. Vice presidential hopefuls including Tim Scott and Marco Rubio were also in the room. 

New Backer

Bessent is a relatively new backer to Trump. He decided last year that only Trump could win the nomination, according to people who have spoken with him. He hosted a fundraiser in Greenville, South Carolina, in February, and has contributed about $1.3 million overall.

Read more: Wall Street Titans Looking for Signs Trump Can Win, Bessent Says

He has also caught Trump’s attention, these people say, thanks to a turbocharged media circuit including Fox News and interviews with Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk and even Donald Trump Jr. Some of his ire has been targeted at Fed Chair Jerome Powell and current Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen — like Trump, he says they’re looking to juice the economy and get Biden re-elected. 

All the while, Bessent has been speaking to Trump’s informal economic advisers regularly, according to people in the former president’s orbit. He’s been identified as an unofficial Trump surrogate, and his television and radio interviews are posted on Truth Social.

And he has won over some of those informal advisers, including Art Laffer.

In an interview, Laffer called Bessent a team player who is competent and not ideological, adding that he knows about supply side economics, monetary policy and financial markets.

Laffer said that quietly campaigning for the job was a positive.

“You’ve got to want the job, otherwise you will be a crappy Treasury secretary,” he said.

Similarities, Differences

Still, for Trump, who values loyalty above all, Paulson has a lot going for him.

There are the past dealings — Trump bought the Doral Golf Resort & Spa from Paulson and other investors in early 2012, spending $150 million for the property. There’s also the billionaire’s willingness to back many of the former president’s views. 

Paulson has said there were legitimate concerns about election integrity in 2020 and that the legal cases against Trump are politically motivated. He has said the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol wasn’t an insurrection but rather a “demonstration that got out of hand.” (Trump views Jan. 6 as one of a series of loyalty tests for prospective administration officials.)

Read more: Paulson Talks Trump Before Hosting $814,600-a-Head Fundraiser

On the other hand, Paulson might not be willing to take the job at Treasury because of the number of investments he’d likely have to sell. He has a personal net worth of $5.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. (Trump is worth $8.6 billion.)

Bessent, who moved a few years ago with his husband to Charleston, South Carolina, would have a comparatively easier time winding down. He’d have to close his hedge fund, which had assets, including leverage, of about $600 million, according to the Greenwich, Connecticut-based firm’s latest regulatory filing.

But more importantly, people close to Trump say, Bessent has a long history of assessing geopolitical and macroeconomic risks that spans more than three decades. That kind of experience — even if it began under GOP bogeyman George Soros — could be crucial as Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on and after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent retaliation.

His level-headedness came through after the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump’s allies were exploring fringe ideas to dismantle the Fed’s independence. While not endorsed by the majority of Trump’s informal advisers, it was Bessent who was quoted across publications as a de facto spokesperson: “President Trump and his economic team understand that the one thing that anchors medium and long-term rates is the Fed’s credibility.”

For all the changes in Trump’s cabinet during his first term, Steven Mnuchin remained atop Treasury for four years. He has said he would consider serving again if asked.

Mnuchin and Powell are widely credited with acting quickly during the onset of the pandemic to stabilize markets with unprecedented emergency backstops, though some argue that stimulus led to the elevated inflation that the Fed is now working to wring out of the system.

“It’s my current focus to build out this business,” Mnuchin said on March 7, referring to New York Community Bancorp.

Less than two weeks later, Bessent, when asked if he would raise his hand, gave a nearly identical answer: “I am laser-focused on my business,” he said on Bloomberg TV’s “Wall Street Week.”

Though, using a golf analogy — one that Trump, an avid golfer himself, might enjoy — he added: “There’s a lot of green in between.”

--With assistance from Saleha Mohsin.

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