The conservative pundit turned viable candidate has been rising in the polls for weeks.
But Ramaswamy showed up to the debate and hoarded attention from the seasoned GOP field, begging the question: did Ramaswamy win the debate?
Could he win the White House?
Vivek Ramaswamy relative to the field
Ramaswamy entered the debate standing third in the polls – an impressive position given the experience and national prominence of those also running i.e., former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence.
Ramaswamy trails only DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who still enjoys a commanding lead over the rest of the field. And during last night’s debate Ramaswamy hit on the talking points that pushed him into third place and endeared him to conservative America.
Ramaswamy has the Trump sycophancy thing going on, but Ramaswamy is able to package his sycophancy in a more appealing package.
First because Trump has never berated or insulted Ramaswamy publicly. So, it’s not like when Ted Cruz kisses Trump’s ring (after Trump has demeaned Cruz so thoroughly), Ramaswamy can pledge himself to Trump without seeming like a completely wet noodle.
Second, Ramaswamy does a good job of making his Trump-allegiances tie into a greater issue, that being the perceived way the Democrats are prosecuting Trump. So, it doesn’t sound like Ramaswamy is getting down on his knees to pay homage to Trump necessarily, it sounds more like Ramaswamy is condemning the Democrats for constructing a two-tiered justice system. Of course, Ramaswamy is ultimately paying homage to Trump, and probably angling for some position in the next prospective Trump administration, but Ramaswamy sounds like he’s just standing up to the Dems.
Vivek On Ukraine
The GOP candidates were split on whether to continue funding Ukraine’s resistance to Russia. Ramaswamy sided with the “isolationists” who proposed cutting off future funding to the Ukrainian war effort. Ramaswamy wasn’t the only one, but he did so with more conviction than the others (DeSantis for example).
Ramaswamy’s denouncement of funding Ukraine invited criticism from the keep-funding-Ukraine crowd – most notably former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who told Ramaswamy he had no foreign policy experience and it showed (Ramaswamy told Haley she was going to be an excellent board member for Raytheon one day).
Ramaswamy’s position on Ukraine is controversial, even within his own Party, but in staking out a position unequivocally, Ramaswamy has endeared himself to a faction of the right who is increasingly wary of US adventurism abroad. Similarly, and perhaps more importantly, Ramaswamy has echoed the position of Trump on Ukraine – another example of Ramaswamy pledging allegiance to Trump without sounding sycophantic.
Unfortunately for the American public Trump likely has the nomination in the bag. Ramaswamy knows that. So, the campaign and the debate and the handshaking in Iowa, it’s not about being elected president in 2024. Maybe it’s about a cabinet position, or the vice presidency. Maybe it’s about 2028 or 2032.
Regardless, last night’s debate makes clear that Ramaswamy has arrived at the mainstream of Republican politics – and as such, Vivik Ramaswamy may well have won the debate.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
From the Vault