ANKENY, Iowa — Running on four hours of sleep from his trip to New Hampshire the day before, newly announced Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy crisscrossed central and eastern Iowa Thursday, bringing the first-in-the-nation caucus state an unapologetic message of American exceptionalism he believes will take him all the way to the White House.
The 37-year-old Ohio entrepreneur crowned by The New Yorker as the “CEO of Anti-Woke Inc”, paid a call on Republican lawmakers Thursday morning at the Iowa Statehouse, then joined a Republican Women’s group for lunch in the Quad Cities, was back in the Des Moines metro for an afternoon business roundtable at a production plant in Ankeny before capping the day at a Polk County Republicans event in Urbandale.
Just two days after announcing what political pundits describe as his “long-shot” outsider campaign for president, Ramaswamy said he felt energized from his conversations with American voters. The author of Woke Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam, pushed a keeping it real message at every stop. He acknowledges his answers might not always be popular, but he’s campaigning to save America from the cancel culture — and that, Ramaswamy asserts, requires speaking truth to power.
“We have this hunger for meaning at a moment when faith, patriotism and family, these things have disappeared in American life,” Ramaswamy told a group of business and community leaders at Accumold, an Ankeny-based complex micro injection manufacturer of molded parts. “That leaves a black hole of a void at the heart of our country, and when you have a vacuum that runs that deep, that is when poison begins to fill the void.”
Ramaswamy has opened his campaign pledging to revive the system of merit, ending Affirmative Action, and abandoning “climate change religion” in America. But he said he’s also focused on bringing back manufacturing to a nation that has bled factory jobs over the last couple of generations.
“I want to talk about something I haven’t talked about the last couple of days, which is a deeper understanding of why manufacturing left the United States, why was it American manufacturers were seen as less competitive,” he said. The answer in no small part, Ramaswamy said, is the U.S. dollar’s leading position as reserve currency of the world. While mostly a strength, it has led to “artificial demand” for the dollar, pushing U.S.-made goods prices up higher than they would be under a “totally neutral free market.”
Speaking of China, Ramaswamy said one of his main policy initiatives as president would be to decouple the U.S. from the communist-controlled nation. He calls U.S. dependency on China “the single, greatest existential threat we face.”
“Part of the reason that we couldn’t shoot down that Chinese spy balloon is that we know down deep inside that we’re still dependent on them for our modern way of life,” the candidate said. “If that were a Russian spy balloon, we would have shot it down instantly and ratcheted up sanctions. No doubt about it, and I don’t think there’s anybody who knows anything about this who is going to look you in the eye and say that would have played out any differently.”
“The reason we didn’t do that has to do with the fact that we depend on an enemy to power our modern way,” Ramaswamy added.
Like President-elect Abraham Lincoln told his Springfield neighbors as he headed off to lead a nation on the verge of civil war that the task before him was even greater than what George Washington faced, Ramaswamy said the effort to disconnect America dependency on China is greater than what President Ronald Reagan confronted in winning the Cold War.
“The Soviet Union in the last century, we never relied on them for the shoes on our feet and the phones in our pocket,” the young Republican said. “I give Reagan all the credit in the world but that was an easy job, relatively speaking, compared to what we face today.”
Just how he intends to “decouple” the U.S. from Chinese interests, Ramaswamy didn’t say. But asked what he’d liked to be remembered for should he emerge victorious in a presidential chase that already includes former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, not to mention former Present Donald Trump on the Republican draw, Ramaswamy said he’d like to “revive free speech” in a culture of fear and move America beyond the idea of diversity as the nation’s strength.
“Our diversity is not our strength,” said the first-generation Indian American. “Our strength is the state of ideals that bind us together across our diverse attributes.”
Like Haley, who made Iowa among her first campaign stops after announcing her campaign last week, Ramaswamy called Trump a friend but said it’s time for a new direction. He credited the former president for driving the issues and identifying some of the big problems — such as the government “swamp” — facing America.
Right on time, even perhaps a bit ahead of schedule, Iowa has become ground zero for the 2024 presidential nomination chase. Republicans will hold their first-in-the-nation caucuses in less than a year from now, and what promises to be a crowded field of Republicans candidates has already started their parade through the Hawkeye State.
Haley held two town halls in Scott County and Urbandale earlier this week, and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who is mulling a presidential run, was in Des Moines Wednesday — at Drake University and at the annual Polk County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner.
Other Republicans, like former Vice President Mike Pence, have made Iowa stops. Others considering runs, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are sure to follow suit.
Ramaswamy acknowledges what is clear: The other candidates have more name recognition and more experience in politics. He sounds unfazed by that.
In his early 30s, Ramaswamy was on the Forbes top 25 list of the richest entrepreneurs under 40. He’s a successful author, commentator, a Yale and Harvard graduate, and once was an elite junior tennis player.
He’s familiar with hard work and success.
“I have lived the full arch of the American Dream, and I don’t apologize for that,” Ramaswamy said. “But that cannot be the only path to success and honor and respect and dignity in this country.”
In short, Ramaswamy says he’s running because he wants hard-working Americans to possess and maintain the freedom to share in that American Dream.
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.