ATLANTA (AP) — A political novice and one of the world’s richest millennials, Vivek Ramaswamy ran a whirlwind presidential campaign that mirrored his meteoric rise as a biotechnology entrepreneur. On everything from deporting the American-born to ending aid to Israel and Ukraine, he consistently displays the bravado of a self-proclaimed foreign populist.
“I am on the side of the revolution,” he declares. “That’s what I’m going to lead in a way that no establishment politician can achieve.”
But in business and politics, Ramaswamy faced skeptics and sometimes hard facts that threatened to derail his ambitions. In the 2024 campaignTHE Israel-Hamas War refocused the Republican primary on foreign policy and revealed the extent to which Ramaswamy’s self-described revolutionary approach puts him at odds with the party’s most powerful figures and many of his voters.
During Wednesday’s primary debate, Ramaswamy joined the rest of the field support Israel’s offensive but he returned to his practice of not only criticizing his opponents, but mocking them. Ramaswamy skewered Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who some online sleuths suggest are wearing knee-high boots, by asking: “Do you want Dick Cheney with three-inch heels?
The performance drew stares and derision on stage. When Ramaswamy suggested Haley was being hypocritical by criticizing social media platform TikTok because her daughter had previously used it, the 51-year-old mother of two called him “scum.”
Ramaswamy, an Ohio native who also lives there, wowed many audiences with his fast-paced, wide-ranging speech. Yet even some impressed Republican voters don’t support him. He is part of a group of candidates following the former president Donald Trump and generally trail DeSantis in national surveys, with polls running between 10 and 10 percent.
Ann Trimble Ray, a Republican activist from Early, Iowa, suggested that Ramaswamy “exposes his naivety partly with what he has said about Israel, but also with his inexperience.”
“Unless you’ve had the experience of someone who’s been exposed to the briefings, what you’re communicating is just a bunch of guesswork,” said Ray, who leans toward supporting Haley.
The 38-year-old son of Indian immigrants has spent his adult life as a sort of boastful savior. In business, that meant building a fortune promoting a drug that ultimately failed. In politics, that means asserting that he can bring Trump’s vision of “America First” back to the White House without the burden.
Ramaswamy established his education at Harvard, a pillar of the American establishment. Ramaswamy majored in biology and participated in the campus Republican club, even standing out as a libertarian. He brought the campus newspaper to the attention of his alter ego, “Da Vek,” a rapper who sang using libertarian ideology as lyrics.
“I consider myself a non-conformist; I like to chat,” Ramaswamy told The Crimson.
Harvard introduced Ramaswamy to the hedge fund class. He interned at Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s most prestigious investment firm, then landed a job at QVT Financial, founded by another Harvard alumnus, Dan Gold. Ramaswamy led the company’s pharmaceutical investments.
Ramaswamy started his own company in 2014. He called it Roivant – ROI meaning “return on investment” – and had a clear business model in mind: buying patents at a discount for drugs languishing in development, then resurrect them.
In his first big move, Ramaswamy used a subsidiary, Axovant, and paid GlaxoSmithKline $5 million for RVT-101, a potential Alzheimer’s drug already in several trials and deemed not promising enough to continue. Ramaswamy renamed it “intepirdine” and, despite previous studies, touted it as revolutionary, a “best-in-class drug candidate,” he told the New York Times during Axovant’s early days. He was on the cover of Forbes magazine.
The hype worked. Intepidine would never do it.
Axovant’s 2015 IPO attracted $315 million, the largest biotech IPO ever, and Axovant’s valuation approached $3 billion. In 2017, Axovant released additional trial results that found the drug was ineffective in alleviating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or its progression. Axovant stock fell.
Ramaswamy, however, had pocketed tens of millions, dumping shares whose value had swelled due to public support.
“He inflated the image and the name to get people to invest, while he was selling himself,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a researcher at the Yale School of Management who tracks Ramaswamy’s business dealings. “It’s classic ‘pump and dump’.”
In his 2015 tax return, one of 20 years he disclosed, Ramaswamy reported nearly $38 million in capital gains income. He turned that into a portfolio that now numbers in the hundreds of millions, enough to eclipse the $15 million he loaned to his own campaign.
He has become a conservative author and television news regular, primarily as a critic of corporate America’s emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. In this role and as a candidate, Ramaswamy ignores that some of his own interests – he invested in Disney, a punching bag for conservatives – are at the forefront of DEI efforts.
Ramaswamy embraces the idea that he is Donald Trump 2.0.
“I think Donald Trump was a great president,” Ramaswamy said while campaigning in Atlanta. “But I believe we need to take our America First agenda to the next level, and I think that will require an outsider from a different generation with a truly positive vision.”
Ramaswamy has promised to pardon the former president if he is convicted of federal crimes, including those related to the attack on the Capitol in 2021. In one of his previous books, Ramaswamy called January 6 “the day dark for democracy” and criticized Trump’s “dark day.” abhorrent behavior” – assessments he no longer repeats.
Ramaswamy advocates for illegally deporting U.S.-born children of immigrants into the country, even though they are U.S. citizens under federal law and Supreme Court precedent. He calls into question the official version of September 11. He calls for the dismissal of 75% of the federal workforce. He wants to raise the voting age in the United States.
Two days after The Hamas attack on October 7 killed 1,400 people, Ramaswamy suggested that the United States suspend aid to Israel until its government details its plans for Gaza.
While many conservatives dislike foreign aid, Republican voters largely align with Israel.
About four in ten Republicans (44%) say the current level of U.S. support for Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians is correct, according to a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research poll conducted in November. Another third of Republicans (34%) say the United States does not provide them with enough support, compared to 9% of Democrats who say the same.
During Wednesday’s debate, Ramaswamy supported Israel’s right to counterattack Hamas, but said Americans should have no financial interest in the war. He criticized his opponents for presenting American aid to Ukraine as a fight for democracy against Russian aggression.
“I want to be careful not to make the mistakes of the neoconservative establishment of the past. Corrupt politicians from both parties have spent billions and killed millions of people,” he said. “They made billions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting wars that sent thousands of our sons and daughters, people my age, to die in wars that did not advance the interests of all, adding $7 trillion to our national debt. »
Ramaswamy recently clashed with conservative commentator Tucker Carlson over his accusations of systemic corruption within the American establishment.
When Sean Hannity, the hugely influential Fox News personality, challenged Ramaswamy after his interview with Carlson, the candidate insisted he had been misinterpreted. Hannity retorted, “You do that every interview. You say things but then deny them, in your own words.
Trump’s critics also accuse him of doing this. The former president also got in trouble with senior Republican officials for disparaging the Israeli prime minister after the Hamas attack. Yet Trump remains such a favorite to win the Republican Party nomination that he has skipped every debate, leaving Ramaswamy to absorb the jabs most candidates never leveled at the former president.
“I tell you, Putin and President Xi are salivating at the idea that someone like that could become president,” Haley retorted Wednesday, saying that Russian and Chinese leaders “would love” his isolationism.
Ramaswamy demonstrated his basic strategy earlier this year in a brief exchange with a 16-year-old who asked him for advice. “Find out where the pack is going, then find out what they missed,” Ramaswamy told him. “We have to go against the consensus.”
But he added a conclusion: “You must be right. »
Associated Press writers Linley Sanders in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.