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Vivek Ramaswamy, rising in the polls, talks pardoning Trump, ending the FBI, more


Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is doing all he can to take a bite out of Donald Trump’s base in his pursuit of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

The 37-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio-area native has pledged, if elected, he would pardon the former president for alleged federal crimes. He has proposed raising the legal voting age to 25 unless you pass a citizenship test or serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Just this week he released a Supreme Court nominee list that included conservative lawmakers such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah.

Ramaswamy’s pitch that he will be Trump 2.0 appears to be working, according to national polls.

A recent Echelon Insights survey in June found 49% of GOP respondents said they favored Trump followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 16% and Ramaswamy at 10%. That is well ahead of better-known candidates, such as former Vice President Mike Pence.

“I think that another establishment or career politician that’s reciting poll tested slogans has no chance of not only defeating Donald Trump but coming anywhere close to Donald Trump,” Ramaswamy told USA TODAY.

“But I do think I’m an outsider in this race, and I have a very clear message of what it means to be an American.”

Ramaswamy visited USA TODAY’s offices on Wednesday to discuss his vision for the country, rise in the polls and how the Republican primary is taking shape as he looks to overthrow Trump and defeat President Joe Biden.

Here are the important moments from that discussion.

How do you defeat Trump?

Ramaswamy’s Double Dutch on the campaign trail is a mix of applauding Trump’s past accomplishments and simultaneously arguing the former president is politically past his prime.

He said about 30% of the country becomes “psychiatrically ill” in response to whatever Trump champions, and that it will take a new outsider to further the agenda that GOP base wants.

Among the GOP’s “expected electorate” a new Morning Consult poll released Monday found 53% hold a favorable view of the Ohio Republican, which is the fourth highest among the current crop of candidates. It also finds that 17% of Trump and 14% of DeSantis voters rank him as their top backup pick.

Ramaswamy told USA TODAY much of the GOP base is sticking with Trump due to an “anaphylactic reaction” to an administrative state that his supporters believe are targeting their candidate and their beliefs.

“I think many of us have a strong sense that the government is about to get not just him, but what he represents,” he said.

Biden won the 2020 election, but…

A significant portion of the GOP electorate still doesn’t believe Biden is the legitimately elected president.

Ramaswamy was coy when asked directly about Biden’s legitimacy, and instead emphasized how the result would have been different had the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop seen more light.

But when pressed, he said that there is no evidence that systematic ballot fraud altered the results of the last presidential election.

“I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that was the case,” Ramaswamy said.

Jan. 6 attack a result of “pervasive censorship,” not Trump

This past week at a conservative summit, Ramaswamy blamed “pervasive censorship” for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Critics pointed to a Jan. 12, 2021 tweet that had a different message: “What Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple,” Ramaswamy said at the time.

Ramaswamy said Wednesday the coupling of COVID-19 restrictions and the Hunter Biden laptop story frustrated many Trump supporters, but that he doesn’t believe Trump is responsible for the riot even though be believes he did act irresponsibly as president.

“I think it is unproductive for our country to blame Trump for Jan. 6 because it exonerates everyone else from introspection on what actually led to the frustrations of Americans that boiled over that day,” Ramaswamy said.

The Ramaswamy Revolution: ditch FBI, pardon Julian Assange and end regulations

Among the big things the biotech entrepreneur wants to do includes getting rid of the FBI, issuing day-one pardons, such as for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and eliminating collective bargaining powers for federal employees.

He would also cap how long most federal employees can work for the government to no more than eight years, just like a president’s term limit.

Ramaswamy said his campaign plans to “mechanically lay out” at a campaign stop in New Hampshire this week exactly how he would shut down a wave of government agencies, including federal law enforcement agencies which have been criticized by conservative lawmakers and activists for their pursuit of Trump investigations.

“I think the FBI as an institution should not exist,” he said.

Appeal to first generation Americans and challenging “victimhood”

Republican voters have the most racially diverse field of presidential contenders in the party’s history with contenders such as Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley, who like Ramaswamy, is the child of Indian immigrants.

Ramaswamy has emphasized his parents’ journey to the U.S. taught him about hard work, and that his biography epitomizes the American Dream.

Yet the 37-year-old Republican has been firm in multiple comments during the 2024 campaign that racial minorities are too often being led into embracing the “victimhood” of their background over excellence.

“Part of what I see in the Indian American community — I think it’s true of the Asian American community more broadly— is that that next generation, my son’s generation, they’re taught to think of themselves as victims,” he said.

Ramaswamy, who authored “Woke Inc.” − a book that was critical of racial justice movements and identity politics − said if elected president he would sign executive orders ending racial and gender hiring practices for the federal government.

“I think my unapologetic embrace of meritocracy in the pursuit of excellence in every sphere of our lives is no doubt influenced by the fact that my parents taught me through their example that hard work is the way that you get ahead in this country, not by complaining about the color of your skin,” he told USA TODAY.


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