Jan 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Ramaswamy's campaign shows signs of unraveling

Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown on July 01, 2023.

Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a Moms for Liberty summit in Philadelphia in July. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Vivek Ramaswamy won't be on the Illinois GOP primary ballot, some of his campaign staffers have begun looking for work elsewhere, and he hasn't qualified for Wednesday's final televised debate before Iowa's caucuses.

Why it matters: Ramaswamy jumped to political prominence in recent months with an anti-establishment, Trump-friendly message — but now there are signs that his long-shot campaign could be starting to unravel.

Driving the news: Ramaswamy has poured much of his campaign's energy into a good showing Monday in Iowa's caucuses, where he's predicted he'll finish no worse than third — above either Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis and behind former President Trump, the front-runner.

  • Polls in Iowa indicate Ramaswamy is running fourth — and beyond Iowa, the picture for him is unclear. His campaign says he's skipping Illinois' GOP primary on March 19 as a strategic decision.

Zoom in: GOP officials tell Axios that they've received job inquiries from multiple Ramaswamy campaign staffers since early November.

  • One offered to start work on Feb. 1 — after the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, but before Super Tuesday on March 5, when 16 states will hold Republican contests.
  • Ramaswamy's national political director, Brian Swensen, left the campaign late last year to work for Trump's campaign, CBS first reported.
  • Ramaswamy campaign spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin told Axios that Swensen's duties had changed a month before he left.

Ramaswamy — like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has focused more on New Hampshire's Jan. 23 primary than Iowa — hasn't reached the 10% support mark in national polls required to qualify for CNN's Republican debate in Des Moines on Wednesday.

  • Haley and DeSantis have qualified for the debate. Trump also qualified, but as with previous GOP debates, he'll skip it and counter-program the event with a town hall on Fox News.

Over the holidays, Trump speculated about an endorsement from Ramaswamy.

  • "He will, I am sure, Endorse me. But Vivek is a good man, and is not done yet!" Trump posted on TruthSocial.

What they're saying: Ramaswamy's campaign bristles at the notion that the campaign is facing a reckoning.

  • "The energy we're seeing on the ground in Iowa is electric, and that level of turnout and excitement is far surpassing the cratering DeSantis and 'Astroturfed' Haley campaigns," McLaughlin said.
  • "The mainstream media may be quick to write our obituary, but that's because they're oblivious to the facts on the ground," McLaughlin added. "We're going to finish in the top three" in Iowa. "Mark my words."

Flashback: After announcing his campaign last February, Ramaswamy enjoyed a summertime rise in polling among conservative Republicans in part because of his aggressive, argumentative debate style.

  • As he increasingly went on the attack in the early debates, Ramaswamy drew criticism for frequently interrupting other candidates, and dropped in polls.

Yes, but: Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur, does have the resources to keep going in the 2024 race. Last week he sold $33 million in stock in a biotech company he founded.

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