Political outsider Vivek Ramaswamy is heading back to Iowa this week with a lot of momentum and a big target on his back in the Republican Party presidential nomination chase.
The Ohio biotech engineer is set to join the cattle call of candidates at Friday’s “pinnacle” event of the Hawkeye State’s long, hot summer of presidential politics — the Republican Party of Iowa’s sold-out Lincoln Dinner fundraiser in Des Moines.
Ramaswamy is riding high and, arguably, running ahead of schedule. He’s risen to third place in RealClearPolitics’ most recent national average of polls. The political upstart, like everyone else, is running far behind former President Donald Trump, who dominates the packed field of GOP nomination seekers, but is sneaking up on the faltering No. 2 candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In the latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released this week, Trump is polling at 52 percent, with DeSantis at 12 percent and Ramaswamy right behind at 10 percent.
“One of the biggest surprises in the poll is how Ramaswamy has risen in the polls with DeSantis who continues to lose support to the growing field. Last time a lot of Republicans had mini surges, so this is not unusual for new entrants — the test will be whether he can go any further in the next two months or someone like Tim Scott will surge next,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey, told The Hill.
Ramaswamy’s ascent has gotten plenty of notice, particularly from DeSantis backers and so-called influencers. As they say, success breeds contempt, and there’s enough contempt in the 2023 presidential primary politics to choke an elephant.
Twitter — or shall we say the rebranded X — has been churning with attacks on the millennial wunderkind from an army of conservative influencers recruited by the DeSantis camp.
Leading the way is John Cardillo, a former Newsmax TV host who was a pro-Trump pundit until he suddenly wasn’t. Cardillo has gone all-in on the Florida governor’s White House run. He and others in the DeSantis digital brigade have accused Ramaswamy of being a stooge for the World Economic Forum, a Soros-funded sell-out, and a mask disciple during the COVID pandemic.
Ramaswamy, an anti-woke crusader who has often said his campaign is about an open discussion with the American people, has fired back at the influencers.
In a video posted on his X (Twitter account), the top-tier presidential candidate says he’s not surprised by the attacks.
“We’re surging in the polls, the knives are coming out,” Ramaswamy said. “The opposition research machines are churning.”
We’re surging. The knives are out. “WEF.” “Soros.” “Masks.” Here’s the TRUTH. Stay skeptical. Keep the questions coming & I’ll keep answering. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/eOjKTRndZu
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) July 19, 2023
He insists that’s a good thing, because he’s running to be president, and if he is going to lead the free world, he’d better be prepared for tough questions.
It’s the playing fast and loose with the facts that Ramaswamy says he isn’t so keen on.
As he has discussed on the campaign trail in Iowa and elsewhere, Ramaswamy asserts he has no relationship with the World Economic Forum beyond his undying criticism of the controversial globalist organization.
“The reason people are asking me all this stuff is because the World Economic Forum named me on a list of so-called young leaders. They did it despite the fact I turned down their award,” he said. “They kept me on that list despite the fact that I repeatedly asked them to take it off because I don’t share their values… When they refused to do it, do you know what I did? I sued them because I believe in taking action.”
Cardillo recently called Ramaswamy a phony for his previous outspoken criticism of Trump on the January 6, 2021, Capitol riots while embracing Trump as he campaigns for the White House.
“Vivek Ramaswamy, who’s embraced Trump on the campaign trail, condemned him after Jan. 6,” Cardillo recently tweeted. “He’s such an obvious phony, but far too many still drink his Kool-Aid.”
Vivek Ramaswamy, who's embraced Trump on the campaign trail, condemned him after Jan. 6
He’s such an obvious phony, but far too many still drink his Kool-Aid. https://t.co/SzxAsFIDIk
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) July 18, 2023
Ramaswamy did condemn the former president at the time.
“What Trump did last week was wrong,” Ramaswamy wrote on his Twitter account following the riot. “Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple. I’ve said it before.”
Ramaswamy defended himself this week, telling Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday” that he still believes Trump showed bad judgment, but that bad judgment isn’t a crime.
“I’ve been consistent all along that I would have made different judgments than Donald Trump made. That is why I am running in this race for the presidency, the same race that he’s in, because I would have made different – and I believe better – judgments for the country,” the candidate said. “But a bad judgment is not the same thing as a crime. And when we conflate the two, that sets a dangerous precedent for this country.”
The DeSantis digital army has also knocked Ramaswamy for taking “Soros money.”
“BREAKING: Vivek is collapsing in polls after it was revealed he is a Soros-educated vegan who bashed Trump and built a vaccine database for the deep state.” Spence Rogers, a conservative consultant, tweeted this week. Cardillo retweeted.<
BREAKING: Vivek is collapsing in polls after it was revealed he is a Soros-educated vegan who bashed Trump and built a vaccine database for the deep state.
— Spence Rogers (@SpenceRogers) July 25, 2023
Ramaswamy did receive a scholarship funded by Soros, just not George Soros — sugar daddy for far-left causes and candidates and the Soros his critics would seem to imply. George Soros’s brother Paul Soros has long funded a scholarship that hundreds of graduate students like Ramaswamy have tapped into. Ramaswamy said he applied for and received the scholarship in 2010, when he was a young man. The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans is a postgraduate fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants. Ramaswamy is a second-generation Indian American.
“And you know what, if I had turned down that scholarship back then, that would have been so foolish that anybody that foolish probably should have no place near the White House doing trade deals on behalf of this country,” the businessman-turned- politician said.
Cardillo and others also have blasted Ramaswamy for his opinions on masks during the opening months of COVID-19. In July 2020, Ramaswamy tweeted, “Wearing a mask = personal responsibility. It’s puzzling when conservatives oppose it. But before deriding them, remember this: CDC and WHO discouraged wearing masks in March — a ‘noble lie’ to save masks for healthcare workers Institutional lying erodes public trust in science.”
Totally America First! pic.twitter.com/KA2mL96O5e
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) July 24, 2023
This week, presidential candidate Ramaswamy defended his earlier comments, asserting his “anti-government instincts” got the better of him then.
“…. [T]hat was in response to the government, including Fauci and the CDC laughing at people for buying masks and telling people across this country that they shouldn’t buy masks,” he said on the video. “I have inherently libertarian instincts. I’m skeptical of the government. I think the government mostly lies. So when they were saying. ‘Don’t buy masks, I went the other way and said that, ‘You know what, if the government is going to tell me not to protect myself, then maybe we should protect ourselves.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other health officials did advise Americans against wearing masks early on in the pandemic. Fauci later claimed he was worried a run on masks would leave healthcare workers without them.
As the facts changed, Ramaswamy said his opinions on the subject changed.
“We quickly learned that masks don’t work. The entire time I was against mask mandates and vaccine mandates,” he said.
Ramaswamy expects more attacks in the coming weeks, a growing sign of his success. He says he welcomes all comers, bidding voters and pundits alike to stay skeptical, my friends.
“Keep the questions coming. I think skepticism is good,” he says in the video, adding that if he can’t take the political heat, he should stay out of the political kitchen.
In the immortal words of Glenn Frey, the heat is on.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Vivek Ramaswamy” by Vivek Ramaswamy.