Vivek Ramaswamy suspends presidential campaign

Jan 15, 2024, 10:01 PM

Vivek Ramaswamy, pictured here on October 30, 2023, is suspending his campaign for the Republican p...

Vivek Ramaswamy, pictured here on October 30, 2023, is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. (Scott Olson, Getty Images, file)

(Scott Olson, Getty Images, file)

(CNN) — Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy ended his campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination Monday night after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucuses.

“I will stick to the truth tonight. The first hard truth and this was hard for me, I gotta admit this, but we’ve looked at it every which way. And I think it is true that we did not achieve the surprise that we wanted to deliver tonight,” he said at his campaign’s watch party in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa ends it for Ramaswamy

Ramaswamy then formally endorsed former President Donald Trump, the projected victor of the Iowa caucuses.

“Earlier tonight, I called Donald Trump to tell him that I congratulate him on his victory. And now going forward, he will have my full endorsement for the presidency,” he said.

He said he plans to travel to New Hampshire to campaign for Trump on Tuesday ahead of the state’s primary next week.

“Tomorrow we’re likely – I’m going to appear with Donald Trump at a rally in New Hampshire to lay out what I see and what we see for the future of the country,” he said.

At 38, Ramaswamy was the youngest candidate in the field, and he touted his youth and relative political inexperience as part of a broader appeal for a new generation of leadership, often drawing contrasts with older, more establishment-aligned Republicans.

“America is in the midst of a national identity crisis. We hunger for purpose at a moment when faith, patriotism and hard work are on the decline,” Ramaswamy wrote in The Wall Street Journal announcing his campaign. “The Republican Party’s top priority should be to fill this void with an inspiring national identity that dilutes the woke agenda to irrelevance. Instead, many top Republicans recite slogans they memorized in 1980 or criticize left-wing culture without offering an alternative.”

He embraced former President Trump

Ramaswamy stood out from the rest of the Republican field for his embrace of former President Donald Trump even as other rivals sought to weaken the primary front-runner. He aligned himself closely with Trump’s policy vision, self-identified as a part of the “America First movement” and called Trump “the greatest president of the 21st century.” And he forcefully defended the former president after each of his indictments, pledging to pardon Trump of federal charges if he were elected to the White House and calling on other candidates to make the same commitment.

He launched his campaign in February 2023 as a little-known former pharmaceutical executive whose books “Woke, Inc.” and “Nation of Victims” had given him a growing profile in right-wing media. His campaign announcement was quickly followed by an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s former show on Fox News, an early indication of his strategy to introduce himself to voters through a heavy diet of appearances and interviews with conservative media figures.

Ramaswamy, who is Hindu and the son of Indian immigrants, was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in biology before earning a law degree from Yale University. He then founded a biotechnology firm, Roivant Sciences, before helping start Strive Asset Management, an investment management firm that earned a reputation for refusing to consider “woke” ideology in investment decisions, including environmental, social and corporate governance factors – positions he frequently pointed to on the trail.

Critical of a two-party political system

A frequent critic of the two-party political system, Ramaswamy often said he was “using” the Republican Party to advance his own agenda. Over the course of his campaign, he leveled sharp criticisms at GOP leaders, most notably Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, whom he called on to resign.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” Ramaswamy said of underperforming Republican candidates during a debate in November. “Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022 — no red wave, that never came. We got trounced last night in 2023. And I think that we have to have accountability in our party.”

Ramaswamy began to gain traction in polls over the summer as Republicans learned more about the Ohio businessman, aided by his knack for garnering attention; he memorably performed a karaoke version of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at the Iowa State Fair after an event hosted by Gov. Kim Reynolds. As he grew in prominence, Ramaswamy became a focal point for attacks from primary opponents who zeroed in on his blustery support for Trump and anti-establishment rhetoric. Those contrasts were on stark display at the Republican debates, where, in Trump’s absence, Ramaswamy served as a proxy for the former president’s isolationist foreign policy views.

Those attacks proved to shift public perceptions around Ramaswamy’s candidacy, with polls showing him stagnating after his summer rise. A Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa poll released in November showed that 37% of likely Republican caucusgoers viewed him unfavorably, a 17-point increase from the same poll in August. A CNN New Hampshire poll released in November found that 30% of likely Republican primary voters said they would never support Ramaswamy for the nomination, 6 points higher than the poll’s September finding.

The attacks that appeared to affect Ramaswamy’s campaign the most came from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a fellow Indian American. She repeatedly skewered his foreign policy views, particularly a proposal for Ukraine to cede territory to Russia in a bid to end the war there. His call to scale back US aid to Israel as part of a broader retreat from the international stage also met resistance across the party.

That criticism put the typically boisterous Ramaswamy on the back foot.

Throughout the campaign, he shifted or amended his stated foreign policy positions. He initially suggested that, as president, he would let China potentially annex Taiwan once the US was no longer dependent on the self-governing island for its semiconductor supply. Later on, though, he reversed course and talked up a continuation of the current Taiwan policy even after the US established “semiconductor independence.”

Ramaswamy often sought to frame his lack of foreign policy experience as a positive, arguing that the conventional wisdom on foreign affairs has led the US in the wrong direction.

“I grew up into watching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Ramaswamy said in a foreign policy speech last year. “I worry that we are paving the path to larger-scale conflict that repeats those mistakes, not at the same scale, but at a larger scale than ever before.”

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Vivek Ramaswamy suspends presidential campaign