Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and political novice, who had initially gained attention for his bold policy proposals and self-assured demeanor, has exited the competition for the Republican White House nomination following a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
Expressing his disappointment in Des Moines on Monday night, Ramaswamy acknowledged, “We did not achieve the surprise that we wanted to deliver tonight.”
Despite initially being an unlikely contender, Ramaswamy, who financed much of his campaign through his personal fortune amassed in biotechnology and finance, aligned himself closely with former President Donald J. Trump. He pledged unwavering support for Trump, even in the face of potential felony convictions, promising a pardon if elected to the White House. Additionally, he vowed to remove his name voluntarily from states that succeeded in disqualifying Trump from the ballot as an “insurrectionist” under the Constitution.
However, just two days before the Iowa caucuses, the tables turned as Trump’s campaign labeled Ramaswamy a fraud. The former president, who had previously shown warmth toward his would-be rival, urged voters to reject Ramaswamy and vote for him.
At that point, Ramaswamy, a Harvard-educated individual, had embraced increasingly apocalyptic conspiracy theories. He spoke of a “system” plotting against Trump’s return to office, insinuating the installation of a “puppet,” Nikki Haley. He also labeled the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack as an “inside job” orchestrated by federal law enforcement, and began propagating the unfounded and racist theory of “replacement,” falsely claiming that Democrats were importing immigrants of color to replace white people.
During a Republican primary debate, Ramaswamy defended this theory, stating, “is not some grand right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform.”
Initially positioning himself as someone with superior knowledge of the Constitution and civil service laws, Ramaswamy promised to take Trump’s America First agenda further. This included immediate executive orders to eliminate the Department of Education, F.B.I., and Internal Revenue Service, cut the federal workforce by 75 percent through mass layoffs without congressional approval, and withdraw from foreign military commitments, beginning with Ukraine and extending to Israel and Taiwan.
While his isolationist foreign policy drew criticism, his bleak portrayal of millennial and Generation Z voters resonated surprisingly well with older voters. Despite clashes with Republican rivals, where he mocked Governor Ron DeSantis and labeled Nikki Haley a China stooge, Ramaswamy gained traction initially, securing third place in national polling, just behind DeSantis, after the first Republican debate.
However, as his attempts to gain attention continued and a penchant for stretching the truth became apparent, Ramaswamy slipped back in the polls. The September debate featured a sharp exchange with Haley, who expressed feeling “a little bit dumber” every time she heard him. By the November debate, Haley went further, calling him “just scum” after he accused her of hypocrisy regarding China due to her daughter’s use of TikTok.
Despite initially holding second place in New Hampshire during late summer, Ramaswamy’s momentum dwindled, and his extensive campaigning in Iowa failed to restore his standing. Privately, he had shared a strategy with backers to align with Trump in the hope that Trump’s legal battles would force him out, making Ramaswamy the logical choice for Trump’s ardent supporters. However, with Trump firmly staying in the race, Ramaswamy’s strategy and self-funding of nearly $17 million proved unsustainable by the end of September.