Unlike the other Republican presidential candidates on the debate stage in Milwaukee Wednesday night, biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy hasn’t been a senator, governor, or vice president. Going into the debate, he and his team knew this nationally televised event was a big chance to fuel his name recognition.
And the 38-year-old businessman worked hard to make the most of the opportunity during the two-hour-debate, frequently maneuvering himself into the middle of the fray. Ramaswamy pitched himself as an outsider to politics, a fresh face in a crowd of seasoned politicians. It was clear from his first remarks on stage, in which he introduced himself to the audience, that he was looking to make an impression among an electorate that knows little about him.
Ramaswamy, 38, who is Hindu American, was born in 1985 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, V. Ganapathy Ramaswamy, worked as an engineer and patent attorney for General Electric; his mother, Geetha Ramaswamy, worked as a geriatric psychiatrist. The Ramaswamys, who are Tamil Brahmins, immigrated to the US from Kerala, India.
Vivek Ramaswamy earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Harvard College in 2007 and received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 2013 while working at a hedge fund. He founded a biopharmaceutical company, Roivant Sciences, in 2014, and in 2021, founded an investment firm called Strive Asset Management.
He authored “Woke, Inc.” and “Nation of Victims,” and rose to prominence in conservative circles as a critic of “identity politics” and social justice initiatives in the corporate world. The married father of two declared his candidacy for president of the United States on Feb. 21, 2023, during an episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Ramaswamy debuted his first campaign ad in March, when he launched a 30-second TV advertisement, entitled “Identity Crisis,” in New Hampshire and Iowa. The ad called out “victimhood” and highlighted the “anti-woke” brand the Republican candidate has been honing. He has been open about his Hindu faith even as he hones a message that appeals to Christian Nationalists in the US.
“Faith, patriotism, and hard work have disappeared,” he said in the ad. “Wokeness, gender ideology, and the climate cult have taken their place.”
Ramaswamy has campaigned on an “America First 2.0″ agenda and has vociferously defended former president Donald Trump, who was absent from the debate stage.
For the rest of the candidates onstage Wednesday, the political neophyte was a safe punching bag. Christie told him he sounded like ChatGPT, Pence criticized him on his inexperience, and Haley was eager to push back against his opposition to providing more support to Ukraine. Ramaswamy endured it all with a smile.
A recent Morning Consult poll suggested Republicans see Ramaswamy as the candidate who stood to gain the most from Trump’s absence from the debate, perhaps influencing his rivals.
The 38-year-old prioritized his travel-packed campaign schedule over “traditional” debate prep, a move designed to avoid over-preparing and maximize authenticity on stage. To underscore the message, Ramaswamy tweeted a video Monday of himself playing tennis shirtless: “Three hours of solid debate prep this morning,” he wrote.
The message doesn’t entirely match reality: The Washington Post obtained a photo that reportedly shows Ramaswamy participating in a traditional mock debate with staffers. Tricia McLaughlin, senior advisor and communications director for Ramaswamy’s campaign, told the Post that Ramaswamy “experimented” with the old-school approach but viewed his activity on the campaign trail as his “real prep.”