Top GOP presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Vivek Ramaswamy have had early success standing out as they fight for their party’s 2024 nomination. They disagree on many topics but are unified on at least one front: They don’t like how the Federal Reserve operates.
Recent polling has them as the only four candidates at or above 5% support in national surveys and, as they crisscross the country, all are promising changes that could upend the US central banking system. With nearly 85% of GOP primary voters currently lined up behind one of these candidates, there could be a notable openness in the next GOP administration in 2025 or beyond to ideas for tinkering with the central banking system.
One recent example of the campaign trail's current tenor was in Iowa. There, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently stopped by the Family Leadership Summit to address an audience focused on social issues. But he also also made sure to mention his opposition to the Fed and specifically the idea of a central bank digital currency.
"Dead, not happening in this country," he told the audience to applause from the assembled evangelicals.
Whether any of these candidates would actually follow through and try to reform the Fed is of course unclear. Donald Trump railed against Jerome Powell for years from inside the Oval Office but left Washington with little in the way of structural changes to show for it.
Markets would of course likely look upon any such changes very warily, but the focus on the Fed is not likely to go away anytime soon with another crucial interest rate meeting set for next week in Washington.
Here’s what the various candidates are saying regularly about Chair Powell and his colleagues in Washington.
Donald Trump: Promises of a 'top-to-bottom overhaul of the federal bureaucracies'
The runaway GOP frontrunner is Donald Trump, who has had a notably rocky relationship with the Fed for years now. He picked Jerome Powell to be chair of the Fed’s Board of Governors in 2018 but then proceeded to criticize his appointee at nearly every subsequent juncture, tweeting things like "Blew it!" when he saw something he didn’t like.
....My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019
Trump nevertheless made little headway when it came to changing how the Fed operates. His administration did draft an executive order that would have required independent regulatory agencies like the Fed to comply with the centralized regulatory review process. But the order was never issued.
Now, in his 2024 run, Trump is doubling down on his plans to increase presidential power over the federal bureaucracy. But he has remained vague on the question of whether the Fed would be included.
"I will bring the independent regulatory agencies, such as the FCC and the FTC, back under presidential authority," he said in a recent video. The Fed is classified by law as an independent regulatory agency.
On his website, Trump additionally promises to "conduct a top-to-bottom overhaul of the federal bureaucracies to clean out the rot and corruption of Washington D.C."
Representatives for Trump didn’t respond to requests for clarity on his position regarding the Fed.
Three other Fed-critical candidates
But Trump is far from alone. DeSantis has made the Federal Reserve a regular part of his pitch all year. The Tampa Bay Times recently compiled some of his comments, including one example of DeSantis saying "this Fed chairman has been a total and complete disaster."
As he announced his run, DeSantis bemoaned the "record printing of money by the Fed" as a key reason he says the economy is failing. He's also staked out a strong position against the idea of a central bank digital currency, which he has repeated in Iowa and elsewhere.
Former vice president Mike Pence has different but potentially equally disruptive ideas on the issue. He has long said the central bank needs to abandon its dual mandate and focus solely on inflation. In 2011, while in Congress, Pence even authored a one-page bill to end the Fed's focus on the labor market.
What Pence and others like to point out is that the Fed was founded in 1913 to focus on currency. It was established in the 1940s — and then codified in 1977 — that the Fed would focus both on maximum employment and stable prices.
"I think we’ve got to get the Federal Reserve back to doing its job," Pence said at a CNN town hall in June.
Also among the current leading candidates is entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. The former drug company CEO would also do away with the dual mandate but go even further. He recently discussed an idea to cut 90% of the staff at the Fed.
"I intend to make the 2024 presidential race in part a referendum on the proper role of our central bank," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year.
What other candidates are saying
Other candidates in the next tier down have been less vocal. Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have focused their campaigns on other issues and haven’t offered a detailed position on their websites or in public comments. Christie was critical of the Fed in 2015.
A rare candidate who has offered a more nuanced assessment of the Fed and Jerome Powell in recent months is Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). On Capitol Hill, Scott is the ranking member of the Senate’s Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the Federal Reserve, and he voted for Powell’s renomination last year.
In a hearing last month, Scott was critical of some aspects of Powell’s response to the recent banking unrest, pointing to "a supervisory failure" as part of the reason for the recent turmoil. But he nevertheless has often spoken out against proposals to change Fed rules dramatically, especially in the area of banking system capital standards.
On the trail, Scott has also largely focused his campaign on other issues and he sits at 3.2% in the polls, according to the latest data, with a lot of ground to make up in the months ahead.
Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.