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Ramaswamy Has Bowed Out of the Race. The Question is, Was He Ever Really in It?

He crooned his support for Donald Trump, who was technically supposed to be his rival, but never really was.

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Let’s discuss the Republican elephant in the room. The presence is always felt, mentions are constantly made, and the aura is ever present and spoken of, and yet it is never visible.

Donald Trump hasn’t taken the stage in any of the Republican debates in the 2024 race. Yet, without a saying word on that stage, he continues to dominate the GOP's standing and that culminated in a decisive win at the Iowa caucus. The Hawkeye State gets the ball rolling for the 2024 US elections and Donald Trump is determined to pull off a Grover Cleveland, that is, be President for non-consecutive terms.

As the Midwest state experienced windchills and snowstorms, Indian-American millennial biotech billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, who ignited the GOP race with his firebrand personality, saw his campaign extinguished on that same winter evening.

Ramaswamy perhaps followed famed country singer Kenny Rogers’ advice, “Know when to hold em, know when to fold em.” He finished fourth, with just 7.7 per cent of the vote, falling way behind Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, who themselves trailed far behind pack leader Donald Trump.

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How Ramaswamy Treated Trump Throughout His Campaign

Ramaswamy dropped out of the red race in January 2024, having come in out of the blue in February 2023.

There were only two things that would ever trump what Vivek Ramaswamy would say on the campaign trail (pardon the poor pun). The first thing is whatever would come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, which by now, beats all the odds and the prognostications. The former President's penchant for incendiaries and absurdity makes disbelief par for the course.

The second is Ramaswamy’s ululating and crooning support for Trump, who was technically supposed to be his rival, but never really was. Ramaswamy, on the campaign trail and on the debate stage, constantly evoked his mentions, almost hagiography-like.

Ramaswamy was also one of the only few to not criticise Trump at all, a tall order given how even former Trump administration officials, including his former deputy Mike Pence, and his Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, wouldn’t shy away from taking political swings.

So, it came as no surprise that when Ramaswamy bowed out of the race, he said, “There are only two America First candidates in the race.”

He is now boarding the Trump train and has very evidently made the 45th President his True Political North as he referenced him as “the best President of the 21st century”.

Ramaswamy Spoke About His Hindu Faith in the Same Way Conservative Southern Baptists Would

A son of Indian immigrants, working in the private sector but an eloquent and well-spoken individual who played up an Obamaesque story, almost to the point of plagiarism, Ramaswamy catapulted himself to fame in no time. In just under a year, he made himself a national celebrity, getting mainstream news channels to phonetically brush up on Indian names and stretching their anglophone tongues to new sounds and enunciations.

His brash, outspoken, Trump-like cudgel-weaving attacks on the progressive left, with a particular target for the “woke” kind, cozied himself up to a certain section of the Republican right. Ramaswamy’s campaign has been centered around ‘meritocracy’, and his ideological axe has taken swipes at wokeism, affirmative action, and the climate agenda.

As I previously wrote for The Quint, the present climate of culture wars and the politics of polarisation has seen the Republican Party leave its Reagan core far at the center or far to the left of its current base. It seemed unnatural for a traditional democratic base of Indian-American voters to suddenly find a first-generational millennial immigrant with phenomenal intellectual pedigree, that of Harvard and Yale as his alma mater, and most likely a humble Midwest upbringing, to sound like a Trump acolyte.

Throughout the campaign trail, he spoke about his Hindu faith in the same way conservative southern Baptists would. The method in the madness was that Ramaswamy, like his GOP competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was vying for the MAGA base, without the figurehead of the movement which is Donald Trump.

Ramaswamy both blended into the core messaging of the MAGA base, shilling for America First, cutting back on immigration, fighting the leftist elite, and advocating for a more reticent America by disengaging from global military conflicts, even as Ukraine and Gaza continue to be war zones. Yet, Ramaswamy was always out of touch, and as Chris Christie, the former New Jersey Governor, said, Ramaswamy comes off as “the most obnoxious blowhard in America.”

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Comparing Ramaswamy to Youngsters in the Democratic Party

This is where incredulity doesn’t add to incredibility. Ramaswamy, at only 38, in some ways, is like the Republican version of Pete Buttigieg. The current Secretary of Transportation was also a 38-year-old candidate during the 2020 Democratic Primary and was younger than Biden’s son. Four years ago, Ramaswamy at 34 was not even eligible to be President, and yet, by running for the grandest job in the land, it’s a virtue signal of being the most qualified for the job.

In some ways, Ramaswamy, with his shirtless tennis videos, was perhaps like the Republican version of Beto  O'Rourke, the former Texas Congressman, who tried to unsuccessfully seat first Ted Cruz at the Senate level, and then Greg Abbott at the Gubernatorial level, and also ran in the 2020 Democratic Primary.

In other ways, however, Vivek Ramaswamy is actually more of a Republican Andrew Yang, the Taiwanese-American businessman candidate who went from obscurity to national fame in the same 2020 Democratic Primaries. Yang, like Ramaswamy, was a dark horse, someone who would put the cat among the pigeons. Both Ivy League graduates, with a penchant for mathematics, would know from both probability and the polls, that they had a kitten’s chance in an inferno of winning or coming close to winning the race.

But in the 24-hour news cycle, TikTok trails, and social media snippets, running for POTUS with an independent war chest is publicity money well spent for the next gig. Andrew Yang, after suspending his campaign, later got his limelight as a political commentator on CNN.

Ramaswamy could well get a similar spot for his conservative shill on Fox News or a government positions such as the Secretary of Transportation or the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Both are seen as low-hanging fruits awarded by the President for loyal political acolytes.

In the past, presidential resumes read either as former Senator, former Governor, former Vice President, or retired four-star military general. Donald Trump, in 2016, a candidate who never held public office, and a political outsider, defeated one of the biggest political insiders — a former First Lady, a Senator, and a Secretary of State. Vivek Ramaswamy doesn’t have 40 years of Trump’s national fame, but it’s well-evinced that US presidential elections are now open, perhaps even welcoming, to political outsiders.

(Akshobh Giridharadas is based out of Washington DC, and writes on diverse topics such as geopolitics, business, tech and sports. He is a two time TEDx and Toastmasters public speaker and a graduate from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. He tweets @Akshobh. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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