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What next for Vivek Ramaswamy?

Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at his caucus night event in Iowa on 15 January. Credit: Getty

January 16, 2024 - 10:00am

Last night’s Iowa caucuses — the first major event of the American presidential campaign — answered two questions: ex-president Donald Trump remains the clear frontrunner, while upstart candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has concluded he has no path to the Republican nomination. As questions continue to swirl around the viability of Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who finished second and third respectively, Ramaswamy now has to figure out what comes next for him and the brand he carefully constructed during his unorthodox campaign.

One possible path forward would see Ramaswamy joining forces with Trump. He refrained from attacking the former president throughout his run, even though Trump went on to refer to him as “not MAGA”, a “waste of a vote”, and even a “vote for the other side”. Ramaswamy, who attributed those attacks to Trump’s campaign advisers, quickly endorsed the Iowa winner after suspending his own campaign. When asked whether he harboured vice-presidential ambitions at a post-event broadcast on X, Ramaswamy didn’t rule it out, stating only that he needed a role that would allow him to “speak my convictions” and “serve the country”.

While such a role would further elevate Ramaswamy, it’s doubtful that he would add much to Trump’s push for the presidency besides a skilled debating voice — his base of support is small, and Trump would probably be better served, strategically at least, by a bland, more mainstream conservative to balance his ticket. In 2016 it was Mike Pence; this time it could be former South Carolina governor Haley, a malleable performer who like Ramaswamy has refrained from full-frontal assaults on Trump. If anything, Ramaswamy is probably too smart, his moves too telegraphed, to last long alongside Trump; consider the ex-president’s breaks with Steve Bannon, Chris Christie, and various other strong personalities over the years.

Instead, Ramaswamy’s best path forward mirrors the course pursued by Andrew Yang after the latter’s dark-horse candidacy for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Yang, also a businessman and the son of immigrants, parlayed an ahead-of-its-time policy reform — $1,000 a month in universal basic income payments to Americans to offset jobs lost to automation — into a varied post-election career. He briefly led the New York mayoral race eventually won by centre-left Eric Adams and founded the Forward Party, designed to advance policy goals including nonpartisan primaries, ranked-choice voting, as well as various other reforms geared towards reducing polarisation in American politics. 

Although Ramaswamy clearly craves the political power that would enable him to “serve the country”, the Yang route would allow him to optimise his talents. The entrepreneur has a strong presence on social media, through which he did much of his later-stage campaign advertising as his war chest shrunk, and his smooth touch on the debate stage would serve him well as a talking head on the major news networks. Some of Ramaswamy’s positions, including a less interventionist “America first” approach to foreign policy, would even resonate with voters on the Left; he has proven able to cross certain rhetorical divides that Republican insiders like Haley wouldn’t dare breach. 

Of course, if all else fails Ramaswamy still has a final set of options available to all charismatic, controversial dissidents across the political spectrum: he could launch a Substack, a Patreon, a full-fledged magazine, a show on X, or another subscription-funded effort to keep his once-unfamiliar name on everyone’s lips. Although he could only talk his way into the hearts of 8,000 or so voters at the caucuses, that’s a lion’s share in the world of alternative media. 

In any event, Ramaswamy has, in his own words, demonstrated a willingness to “put in the work” — how he prioritises it will go a long way towards determining what remains of his political brand. Hitching his wagon to this campaign season’s star would probably only draw him too close to Trump’s bright orange sun. That move didn’t work out too well for all the unwary Icaruses who preceded him.


Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work

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Robbie K
Robbie K
4 months ago
Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

That certainly worked as a launching platform for Trump’s political career.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Donald Trump was in a reality television show, not the host of a game show. There’s quite a difference.
A motor mouth like Vivek Ramaswamy would be terrible in reality television. He just won’t shut up. He would drive viewers crazy. Game show host? Maybe.
Donald Trump has a good stage presence, and can hold an audience for an hour, easily. Vivek Ramaswamy tends to grate much sooner than that.
I don’t think Vivek Ramaswamy has much of a future in politics. What makes him good in business doesn’t translate to being a good executive. He doesn’t have the smooth sales skills of a Donald Trump, nor the mastery of the art of the deal.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Game shows were reality TV before the term ‘reality TV’ came into use. Same basic premise really. Take some dudes off the street and put them into some silly contrived situation with a D-list celebrity as host and film it. Don’t have to pay expensive actors or writers or any of the other personnel, just give away some money at the end or even better, give away a prize that costs nothing because it’s a form of advertising for whatever company is giving it away. The Price is Right is basically an hour of advertising, with more advertising in between. Best of all, a year of programming can be filmed in a single static studio over a few days. Game shows are to reality TV as the Model T is to modern automobiles.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

A perfect example of why Iowa shouldn’t have such an outsize role. It is not representative of the general voter base. Vivek enjoyed support among the younger generations who want to add a little techno-intellectualism to Trump’s revolutionary MAGA madness. He is the 4chan candidate.
The irony is that he won’t be rewarded for doing the smart and responsible thing of standing down when he clearly has no chance of winning. DeSantis and Haley however will continue to gain renown and political position despite pointlessly fighting a lost battle and wasting everyone’s time and money.
He and Andrew Yang are smart men playing a dumb game and that more than anything will hold them back. The same applies to Rishi Sunak – another tech millionaire descendant of Asian immigrants.
The alternative route is the Pete Buttigieg one where he is given some non-role in the cabinet which I think is highly likely as Trump scrapes the bottom of the barrel for worthy MAGA appointees.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Sunak? Really? In the same breath as Vivek?

Sunak is the absolute image of the Davos Elite. He wears his human suite so look like one of us – but that is just a ‘Skin Job’.

(a word becoming more popular in the conspiracy loon world where the global Elites are called Lizard People; means the puppet-masters pretending to just be normal rich people, Davos, Gates, Soros, Zuckerberg, Rothschildes, Schwab, Leguard, Biden…)

p.s. (conspiracies which always come out being true now days…)

wictonary:

”Noun [ edit] skin job (plural skin jobs) (science-fiction, slang) A robot or android (or lizard*) with humanoid flesh and skin.”

Anyway – I am sure Vivek is actually a real Patriot, Billionaire, yes, but still a human as in he is not out for global domination by the ultra wealthy and powerful, unlike Sunak.
*my addition

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
4 months ago

and speaking of conspiracy loon slang, MOHAP, haha…. allegedly, and may be replacing Biden some wild people say… in which case you will see a lot more of this acronym….

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I am surprised Vivek did not hang on until Super Tuesday. I wonder what the inside story was.

Steel Swift
Steel Swift
4 months ago

And Ramaswamey belongs, with Andrew Yang, on the ash heap of history. He offers nothing. Just another sociopath offering slick word salads to boost his own ego.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
4 months ago
Reply to  Steel Swift

At least Vivek Ramaswamy has almost a billion dollars to enjoy on the ash heap. Andrew Yang has a lot less.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

Please stop propping up Nikki Haley as the answer to anything. There is no more establishment, status quo candidate than her, and the last thing we need is more rudderless foreign entanglements.
As to Vivek, who knows. A year ago, no one knew his name. What he lacks is something beyond smooth talk. He can say anything because there is no record to examine, very much like a certain former president whose limited political history was notable for often voting ‘present.’ As people did with him, they can project their fondest hopes onto Vivek. Maybe he believes what he says. I just don’t know and it’s always a red flag when a candidate has a canned and scripted answer to every question.

J Bryant
J Bryant
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I’m disappointed in Ramaswamy and, by the end, I didn’t understand his strategy.
He is very smart and had many sound policy positions. But then he became ever more extreme in his views, although I’m not sure he really believed his more extreme statements. He seemed to be trying to out-Trump Trump which is impossible. I believed him when he said he had no interest in being Trump’s VP, and I doubt such a sharp, driven man would survive long in Trump’s orbit.
So what was his strategy? If he just wanted to establish himself in the political landscape, perhaps with a 2028 run in mind, he succeeded, but he boxed himself in to a strongly right-leaning position. It will be hard to disavow any of that in the future for political expediency.
Sadly, it’s possible he’s a very clever, very successful young man whose ego got the better of his judgment.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
4 months ago

Most republicans acknowledged that Vivek was smart and his opinions appealing.
His poor showing seems to be down to voters thinking a Trump in the hand is worth two Viveks fixing America in the bush.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
4 months ago

Hmmm, a “strong character” who took a beating in the debatea and didn’t even have to deal with a back and forth with the only candidate who matters. I like some of what he says and that he was willing to do “new” media but his unwillingness to critique (let alone criticise) Trump doesn’t leave me with the impression that he can do anything other than ride along in the wake of Trump.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

This clown is very obviously full of it. Smarter than Trump, not that that is saying much, but not willing to fight him. In fact, was willing to humiliate himself to get some attention. Embarrassing.
Good luck to him on his future as a podcast host that we’ll never hear from again…

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
4 months ago

VR for VP !

J. A. Guzinski
J. A. Guzinski
4 months ago

“What next for Vivek Ramaswamy?”
who cares

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
4 months ago

I was a Ramaswamy voter. Not sure what I’m going to do now.

Robert Pruger
Robert Pruger
4 months ago

I like Vivek enough that I made a contribution to his campaign. First time I gave a contribution in a presidential primary. No regrets. He is bright, wickedly articulate, and took some positions, such as on Ukraine, that were controversial but insightful. He absorbs information at lightening speed. Not concerned on what he does next. I could see him helping shape Trump’s policy on technology, AI, social media. Keep your eyes peeled. We will be hearing a lot more from him.