A favorite of Trump’s since last winter’s federal shutdown and the earlier unsuccessful effort to repeal Obamacare, Mulvaney has emerged as one of the two leading candidates to succeed John Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff, according to interviews with a dozen current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the administration.

Long rumored to be on his way out, Kelly has no clear plans to resign — but Mulvaney has been discreetly lobbying for the job, asking Republicans outside the White House to put in a good word on his behalf with the president.

In recent weeks, Trump has been asking around about both Mulvaney and Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s current chief of staff and a longtime political operative who’s also in the running for the job, according to one person who recently spoken directly with the president.