'I am the outsider': Who is 2024 Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy?

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WASHINGTON - “I’m the outsider."

This is the mantra Vivek Ramaswamy repeats on the campaign trail as the Indian American businessman mounts a long-shot bid to unseat Donald Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner.

“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, who entered the race with zero political experience, told USA TODAY in July.

Instead, the 38-year-old son of a Cincinnati psychiatrist has set himself apart from former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other candidates with in-your-face conservative stances and direct attacks on his opponents – and even their children.

His controversial positions on immigration and foreign policy, heated clashes with his rivals during debates, vision to gut the federal government and embrace of “anti-wokeness” have often put him in the spotlight as places fourth in recent national polls, with the support of just 5% of Republican voters. (Trump has nearly 60%.)

Ramaswamy told USA TODAY he sees himself as a “George Washington, America First conservative” who hopes to “revive the ideals that set this nation into motion in 1776.”

“My story is the American Dream story,” Ramaswamy said. “My parents came to this country with almost no money. I've gone on to found multi-billion dollar companies and did it while meeting my wife, bringing two sons into this world, following our faith that my parents instilled in me.”

How did Vivek Ramaswamy make his money?

Ramaswamy was born in in 1985 to Vivek Ganapathy, an engineer at General Electric Aviation, and Geetha Ramaswamy, a geriatric psychiatrist.

Ramaswamy has sought to portray himself as a penny-pinched high achiever. “I didn’t grow up in money, but I did have the ultimate privilege of having two parents in the house, a mother and a father with a focus on education,” he has said. “I think many kids of immigrants enjoy that same privilege."

When he was in eighth grade, Ramaswamy enrolled at St. Xavier High School, a private all-boys Jesuit-run institution; he graduated as valedictorian in 2003. He then earned a bachelors degree at Harvard University before graduating from Yale Law School.

Ramaswamy began his career as a hedge fund investor and later founded several biotech companies.

One was Roivant Sciences, a pharmaceutical research company, which Forbes magazine valued at $7.3 billion in 2021 – the year he stepped down as CEO. More recently, Ramaswamy co-founded Strive Asset Management early last year based on the philosophy that investment funds that ignored social, environmental and other concerns perform better than their peers. In November 2022, Strive announced total assets of over $500 million.

Ramaswamy also wrote several books, including “Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit and the Path Back to Excellence” and “Woke, Inc.”

He then stepped down from Strive to launch his improbable but attention-getting run for the presidency. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Ramaswamy wrote that America was in the midst of a “national identity crisis" caused by progressive politics.

“We’re in the middle of a kind of war,” Ramaswamy said at a USA TODAY town hall in New Hampshire. “It’s a war between the majority of us … who believe in the founding ideals of this country, that all men are created equal,” and a “fringe minority who says your identity is based on your race, your gender and your sexuality.”

“We forgot all of the ways that we are really the same as Americans, bound by that common set of ideals."

What is Ramaswamy's political agenda, including his stance on abortion?

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy arrives to speak at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy arrives to speak at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Las Vegas.

While Ramaswamy has defended Trump over the four criminal indictments the former president faces, including two over Trump's alleged efforts to interfere with the 2020 election, he told USA TODAY his goal was to “take the America First Agenda even further than Trump did, be more effective at implementing it and also unite the country in the process.”

He's strongly anti-government. Ramaswamy has called for firing more than ​​one million civil servants and shutting down the FBI, IRS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Department of Education with the goal of redirecting federal education funds to “close the gap of underfunded school choice,” he said.

“I favor quantum-leap change,” Ramaswamy said. “I don’t believe it is possible to incrementally reform agencies that have existed for a long time.”

But experts have warned eliminating those agencies isn't feasible.

Ramaswamy also favors a constitutional amendment to raise the voting age to 25 for citizens who can't pass a civics test. “I think we have a crisis of national pride, and especially amongst young Americans…I think that's in part, a crisis of knowledge about our country,” he told USA TODAY.

The entrepreneur has said he's against birthright citizenship, and, if elected, he would push to deport the American-born children of undocumented immigrants − who are U.S. citizens under the Constitution's 14th Amendment. He also said he would end the H-1B visa program and replace with a system based on meritocracy.

While Ramaswamy says he’s against abortion, he doesn’t favor a national ban. He described himself as "a believer that unborn life is life" on the All-In podcast, and has previously supported six-week bans at the state level.

After Ohio voters passed an amendment enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution, Ramaswamy argued during the third GOP debate that he favored “sexual responsibility for men” and DNA testing to help establish paternity, suggesting this would reduce the need for abortions.

Clashes with Nikki Haley

Rejecting a bipartisan foreign policy consensus, Ramaswamy opposes continued military aid to Ukraine as it fights to eject Russian invaders, and he favors a resolution to the wear that would allow Russia to keep illegally annexed parts of eastern Ukraine.

He’s also against additional funding for Israel and Ukraine. In a debate with Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Ramaswamy said that Washington’s focus on the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East “dilutes the focus on what actually threatens the American homeland.”

This has made him a punching bag for other GOP candidates like Haley, who supports U.S. aid to Israel and Ukraine.

“I’m telling you Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president. They would love to see that,” Haley fired back at Ramaswamy during the third GOP debate in November.

Ramaswamy's take-no-prisoners approach has been front and center during his debate exchanges with the former South Carolina governor, who is also a child of Indian immigrants. During a discussion of social media, he criticized Haley's daughter for using TikTok, telling the former U.N. ambassador that “you might want to take care of your family first." Haley replied, "you're just scum."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can Vivek Ramaswamy compete against former president Donald Trump?