Vivek Ramaswamy has emerged as something of a breakout star in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, raising speculation over his future within the party.
Many Republicans have praised the 37-year-old biotech entrepreneur, calling him an effective communicator with an impressive professional resume for a political outsider.
The biotech entrepreneur and author of “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam” is an audience favorite at multicandidate events and has polled well despite not being nationally known when he entered the race.
“Take it from me as a young person — I’m 37 years old. I was born in 1985. I truly hope and pray and believe that my best days may still be ahead of me,” he said at the Faith and Freedom conference in Washington, D.C. in June.
Ramaswamy’s campaign says he met the donor threshold earlier this year. This summer he rolled out “Vivek’s Kitchen Cabinet” to boost his donor numbers even more, by letting fundraisers keep 10% of what they bring in for his campaign.
While there’s heavy scepticism that Ramaswamy will win any of the early-state primaries, many see him as a rising figure within the party’s ranks.
“I think that his message is resonating well with the Republican activist crowd, and he is being positive enough with regards to [former President] Trump to basically be an alternative without being an anti-Trump guy,” said GOP strategist and former Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis.
“I think that resonates with many of the Trump supporters and let’s say soft Trump supporters who would like to move on, but yet see somebody who’s not running kind of on a message of attacking Trump and his legacy,” he added.
Initially considered a long-shot candidate when he launched his campaign in February, the “Woke, Inc.” author entered the race known in part for his staunch opposition to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) policies.
But the political outsider and first millennial to run for president on the GOP side has started to catch some momentum in the GOP primary.
He’s garnered attention for some of his stances and proposals, including pushing every candidate in the GOP primary to commit to pardoning Trump over the Justice Department’s indictment alleging the former president mishandled and obstructed attempts to retrieve classified documents. Other Republican contenders like Perry Johnson have also vowed to pardon the former president.
Earlier this month, Ramaswamy gained some praise after a video went viral of him engaging with a protester who interrupted his Iowa event. After the woman turned to leave after interrupting his remarks, Ramaswamy offered for her to come back to ask a question.
“There is a division in our country and I think people are hungry to start talking openly again, and I think Vivek has a unique skill that he’s able to really lead people and rally people around what this country was founded upon, which is free speech, which is an open debate,” said Ramaswamy campaign senior adviser Tricia McLaughlin.
“I think that’s what not only the GOP electorate is hungry for, but I think independents and even disaffected Democrats,” she added.
National polling, too, suggests voters are starting to give Ramaswamy a serious look.
A RealClearPolitics polling average shows Ramaswamy placing third at 5.4 percent, behind Trump in first place with 52.4 percent and DeSantis at 18.4 percent.
Still, most national polls show the biotech entrepreneur in the single digits compared to Trump, who remains the front-runner in surveys. Some early state polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina show Ramaswamy trailing some of the other GOP candidates, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.).
Republicans also acknowledge more GOP voters will start to tune into the primary around next month’s debate in Milwaukee and note there’s still months to go until the first early states’ primaries.
Not all Republicans are buying the Ramaswamy hype. GOP pollster and consultant Whit Ayres said the GOP millennial is “not a serious contender for the presidency” and waved off Ramaswamy’s recent polling.
“It’s a sign just like Herman Cain caught something in 2011 and Ben Carson caught something in 2015 and Andrew Yang caught something in 2020,” Ayres said, referring to presidential candidates who appeared to have momentum at one point in their primary before sputtering out.
New Hampshire-based strategist Matthew Bartlett similarly suggested that Ramaswamy doesn’t have a viable path to the presidency. Putting it bluntly, Bartlett said, “No one is expecting him to win,” and he said he didn’t see Ramaswamy going after the former president in the primary but was “looking to cozy up to Trump.”
“His campaign was not looking to end up in the Oval Office. His campaign was to promote himself and to some degree, his ideas and articulate that,” he added.
But that hasn’t stopped members of the party from suggesting that Ramaswamy could have a bright future ahead, saying he could run for Senate, be picked for a presidential cabinet position or even selected as someone’s running mate.
“There’s so many people even after the Family Leadership Summit [who] said, ‘Boy, what a young, positive, inspirational guy. He has a bright future. He’d be good in somebody’s cabinet. He might be a vice president,’” explained Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the influential Family Leader in Iowa.
“His biggest hurdle right now is crossing that threshold where people say, ‘No, I think he can be president.’ So he’s gotten a lot of people excited about his candidacy. Now he needs to make that transition: ‘Now they can see me be president,’” he added.
Ramaswamy for his part has previously said he’s not interested in being a vice presidential pick or taking a cabinet position, saying he’d return to the private sector instead if he didn’t win the GOP presidential primary. But his campaign argues he shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I think Vivek has already done what everyone said he couldn’t do. The fact that he is beating … the most former vice president, multiple governors, the former U.N. ambassador, a sitting senator … four or five months ago, no one knew who Vivek Ramaswamy is,” McLaughlin, the senior Ramaswamy campaign adviser, said. “And now he’s third in national polls. That in itself is meteoric.”
Republican strategists, too, say that while Trump is still the front-runner in the primary, a strong showing in Iowa can help galvanize a candidate heading into the next few states.
“I wouldn’t count anyone out that’s coming in the top three in Iowa,” said GOP strategist Alice Stewart, who’s an alum of multiple presidential campaigns. “And the objective of Iowa has never been to choose the party nominee, it’s to winnow the field.”