A few months ago, most Americans had never heard of Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old Republican presidential hopeful, says Olivia Reingold on Substack. But after Wednesday night’s debate, the crowd were “screaming his name at full volume”. The political newcomer dominated the Milwaukee meeting, and despite plenty of jabs from his opponents – Chris Christie said he “sounds like ChatGPT” – Ramaswamy appeared to be “having a spectacular time”. And why shouldn’t he? The biotech entrepreneur was polling around 1% a few months ago; he’s now almost at 10% and seems sure to surpass former favourite Ron DeSantis in the coming weeks.
His strategy, put simply, is to brand himself as a younger Trump. He pushes similar wacky policies: Ramaswamy claims “more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change”, and wants to dismantle the Education Department and the FBI. He promises Republican voters an “America First 2.0” agenda, but in the package of a Harvard Man with a private jet who regularly quotes the Founding Fathers and the Bible. Like the former president, “he easily goes viral”: a video he posted on Monday “grunting and leaping” while playing tennis shirtless has racked up more than seven million views. And “he also has his own hat”, but instead of MAGA, it’s labelled “TRUTH”. The only chance anyone has of beating Trump is to present themselves as his natural heir. For precisely this reason, Vivek is quickly becoming the only candidate to “actually have a shot” at securing the nomination.
🏆🧡 The real winner of the Republican debate, says The Economist, was the absent Donald Trump. He pre-taped an interview with Tucker Carlson that was posted to X (formerly Twitter) just as the debate began. In the “genial-back-forth”, Trump acted as though he’d already won the nomination, largely ignoring his rivals and attacking Joe Biden instead. And just in case another candidate did have a “breakout moment”, the former president had arranged to turn himself in at a Georgia courthouse the following day, which “guaranteed he would command the forthcoming news cycle, regardless of the outcome in Milwaukee”.