The next Trump: younger and to the right
Vivek Ramaswamy — the little-known biotech multimillionaire who jumped into the ’24 GOP presidential race — is auditioning to be the party’s next Donald Trump, with hyper-Trumpian positions on the border, voting, culture wars and more.
Why it matters: By running to the right of Trump, the 37-year-old entrepreneur seems to be positioning himself as heir apparent to the former president, 76. Ramaswamy is an understudy in plain sight — and already mentioned as a plausible V.P. pick for Trump.
The intrigue: Trump, long known for bashing his opponents, not only hasn't criticized Ramaswamy — he's praised him.
- "I am pleased to see that Vivek Ramaswamy is doing so well in the most recent Republican Primary Poll," Trump posted last week on Truth Social, referring to a survey that showed Ramaswamy tied with former Vice President Mike Pence for third among GOP contenders.
- Trump could have been celebrating Ramaswamy's rise because it represents support that's not moving toward Florida Gov Ron DeSantis, Trump's chief rival.
- But there are signs of a possible Trump-Ramaswamy alliance: Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has spoken with a super PAC backing Ramaswamy about coming aboard — and had the conversation with Trump’s blessing, Politico reports.
State of play: Ramaswamy has cast himself as a post-Trumper who'll bend policies further right than Trump ever would.
- He hasn't criticized Trump much beyond equating him to Joe Biden for refusing to debate GOP opponents, but Ramaswamy often speaks of the former president in the past tense — and suggests he could deliver better results, without the baggage.
- "We can take the America First agenda even further than Trump because we will do it from a moral foundation," Ramaswamy told Axios in a recent interview.
- "He had his chance to do a lot of things" that were left undone, he said.
- "I think it's a mistaken concept that there's a body of this country that's loyal to a person — they're loyal to a country, most of them."
Driving the news: Ramaswamy's pleasant manner cloaks the sledgehammer he'd like to take to government agencies, policies and laws, and he talks of seizing power in a way no modern president has.
- He said one of his first acts as president would be to end affirmative action by executive order. The author of a book called "Woke, Inc." Ramaswamy is a vocal critic of diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
- He wants to fire "half the federal workforce." Under rules meant to discourage partisan firings, most federal workers can be fired only in rare cases, but Ramaswamy says: "You can fire bureaucrats ... you're constitutionally empowered to do it.”
- He's called for shutting down the FBI and the IRS, as well as the Department of Education.
- Ramaswamy is preparing a proposal to disenfranchise millions of young voters by raising the voting age to 25. Those in the military, first responders, and people who pass a civics test would be able to vote at 18 under the plan, first reported by Politico. (Voters under 25 made up nearly 9% of the electorate in 2020; most backed Democrats.)
- He'd use the military to attack drug cartels in Mexico, and idea that also has intrigued Trump.
- He supports "merit-based" restrictions on immigrants seeking to come to the U.S.
- He wants to stop aiding Ukraine to help it fight off Russia's invasion.
What they're saying: "Vivek is just much closer to the actual id of Trump than these other candidates," said Sarah Longwell, Republican political strategist and publisher of The Bulwark.
- "Actual governing experience means you do things like compromise and work with people," she added. What the GOP wants "is a purebred culture warrior."
Zoom in: Ramaswamy has an estimated net worth of $630 million through his biotech and asset management ventures, per Forbes.
- In 2014 he founded biotech firm Roivant Sciences, now a publicly traded company in which he has an 8% stake. Since 2020, he has written books and given speeches against critical race theory, Big Tech censorship, and stakeholder capitalism.
Don't forget: Ramaswamy has never held elected office and isn't known to the vast majority of voters.
- But he's vowed to spend as much as $100 million on his campaign, and already has put $10 million of his own money toward ads and trips to key primary states.