Vivek Ramaswamy, the Ohio-born Indian-American entrepreneur, invoked Barack Obama’s self-deprecating line from 2004 to present himself as an anti-establishment outsider in the Republican field even as he embraced Donald Trump’s vision for America, calling him the best president of the 21st century.This led to put-downs that he was auditioning for the vice-presidential ticket in aTrump nomination.
Trump himself, leader of the pack in almost every poll, stayed away from the debate, preferring to do a one-on-one interview with commentator Tucker Carlson. But he was quick to note the comment on his Truth Social platform, posting, “This answer gave Vivek Ramaswamy a big WIN in the debate because of a thing called TRUTH. Thank you Vivek!” setting the contours of a possible Trump-Ramaswamy ticket.
But other Republican contenders went after Ramaswamy, and in the process pitchforked him centerstage as the Indian-American flame-baited the field to garner plenty of airtime.
“The last person who stood up here saying, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama and I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur standing on the stage tonight,” former New Jersey governor Chris Christie sneered. Obama had used precisely that line to announce himself at the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he just a freshman Senator with an eye on the White House.
Evocative of the changing political lexicon in the AI era, Christie said Ramaswamy “sounds like ChatGPT” and repeatedly taunted him as an “amateur.”
Tech tycoon Vivek Ramaswamy becomes second Indian-American to announce US Presidential bid, watch his campaign video
Other candidates also attacked Ramaswamy, with former South Carolina Governor and US ambassador to US Nikki Haley jabbing at his lack of international experience saying his policy on Ukraine, China and Israel would make America less safe, and former Vice President Mike Pence called him a “rookie” who had no relevant experience.
“I mean, frankly, he has an agenda of appeasement on the world stage. I hope viewers got a better sense. Vivek Ramaswamy’s view of American leadership is to let Vladimir Putin have whatever he wants,” Pence told reporters after the debate.
Ramaswamy lashed back, mocking that Christie was merely angling for a cable news contributor contract and wishing Haley the best “in your future career on the boards of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon” — a jab at her ties to the defense industry.
Ramaswamy’s embrace of Trump didn’t stop with policies. He was also the first candidate to raise a hand when asked who would support the former president as the party nominee if he is convicted on any of the felony charges that he’s facing.
“Join me in making a commitment that you would pardon Donald Trump,” Ramaswamy challenged Pence, Trump’s former vice-president who has fallen out with him. Pence shied away from answering.
Ramaswamy’s aides claimed he was a clear winner in the debate notwithstanding the various smackdowns aimed at him, saying it was a “Vivek versus the GOP establishment” show and he dominated the night.
Post-debate surveys suggested as much, with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, once a frontrunner in the GOP field, clearly overshadowed, also although his aides claimed he did not want to “beclown” himself before “naive” and “childish” opponents.
Donald Trump gives it a miss, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley among 8 contenders at Republican Presidential debate