Debate performance changed my mind on Ramaswamy

I was delighted to see biotech entrepreneur and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy break into the double-digits in an early July poll. I’d been impressed with the anti-woke candidate from the moment I first heard him speak.

Ramaswamy, 38, who was largely unknown in political circles before declaring his candidacy in late February, is an impressive person whose name recognition is growing. He is smart, driven, and uncommonly articulate. He is running an aggressive media campaign and suddenly appears to be everywhere.

A first-generation American, Vivek Ramaswamy is quite the accomplished person. According to his campaign website, he was:

[A] nationally ranked tennis player and the valedictorian of his high school, St. Xavier. He went on to graduate summa cum laude in Biology from Harvard and received his J.D. from Yale Law School, while working at a hedge fund. He then started a biotech company, Roivant Sciences, where he oversaw the development of five drugs that went on to become FDA-approved.

He’s also wealthy. In 2016, he earned a spot on Forbes’ list of America’s richest entrepreneurs under 40. His net worth at the time was estimated at $600 million.

He enumerates 10 fundamental “truths” on his website that many conservatives can rally behind:

  1. God is real.
  2. There are two genders.
  3. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels.
  4. Reverse racism is racism.
  5. An open border is no border.
  6. Parents determine the education of their children.
  7. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind.
  8. Capitalism lifts people up from poverty.
  9. There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four.
  10. The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.

My high opinion of Ramaswamy began to swoon last week after he told conservative podcast host Hugh Hewitt that China could invade Taiwan in 2028 once the U.S. had achieved “semiconductor independence.” He said:

I’m choosing my words very carefully right now. I’m being very clear: Xi Jinping should not mess with Taiwan until we have achieved semiconductor independence, until the end of my first term when I will lead us there. And after that, our commitments to Taiwan, our commitments to be willing to go to military conflict, will change after that, because that’s rationally in our self-interest.

Ramaswamy’s positions on Russia, Ukraine, and Israel have also given me pause.

But it was his smug, arrogant, and frankly not so smart performance at Wednesday night’s debate that turned me off for good.

In response to his first question, he said, “So, first let me just address a question that’s on everybody’s mind at home tonight. Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name and what the heck is he doing in the middle of this debate stage?”

It turns out that he was repeating words uttered by then-Senate candidate Barack Obama during his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

While the candidates were responding to a question about climate change, Ramaswamy chimed in: “Let us be honest as Republicans. I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for.”

Ramaswamy’s rivals, naturally, did not take kindly to this insult and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the first to pounce. Christie said: “Hold on, hold on. I’ve had enough already tonight of a guy who sounds like ChatGPT, standing up here. And the last person in one of these debates who stood in the middle of the stage and said, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama. And I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur tendencies tonight.”


Here’s what The Washington Examiner’s Byron York had to say about Ramaswamy’s performance:

Ramaswamy, who with his other strengths is a veritable talking machine, came to Milwaukee with a big show, holding a “Revolution” party the night before the debate. After that, Ramaswamy showed that he can be both an interesting, provocative candidate and a complete jerk.

Ramaswamy continued the insult routine with Haley and then with everyone else — he treated Pence as if the former representative, governor, and vice president just didn’t understand government. In remarks after the debate, Ramaswamy said his manner simply showed he is not a professional politician and that he stands out in a field of liars and squishes. The others onstage, he said, will “say anything, even when it’s outright false,” leaving Ramaswamy feeling like “I was onstage with Joe Biden and Liz Cheney.”

By the end of the debate, there was little doubt that all the candidates loathed Ramaswamy. The bigger question, though, was what did the voters think? And the early indications, from TV focus groups, man-on-the-street interviews, and internet surveys, are that some voters, perhaps many voters, liked what they heard from Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy may well get a bounce in the polls as a result of his performance. But, for me, the rose-colored glasses came off. I’ve left the Vivek is an “interesting, provocative candidate” camp and joined the Vivek is a “complete jerk” category.

He’s simply not ready for primetime.

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