Republican presidential contenders appeared united during Wednesday night’s primary debate in finding candidate Vivek Ramaswamy deeply annoying.
But that’s not a problem for some of the internet’s other most annoying people.
“Vivek is increasingly compelling,” posted Twitter/X owner Elon Musk during the debate. Musk later tweeted that Ramaswamy, who called climate change a hoax, was “impressive,” in response to similar praise from a Babylon Bee writer, who had been previously pushed out of Turning Point USA for her ties to a white nationalist influencer.
Early primary debates are often less about winning hearts, and more about standing out in a crowded field of candidates. Wednesday night’s Republican primary was an exceptional example of the phenomenon. Donald Trump—by far the primary’s frontrunner—skipped the debate, leaving longshot candidates to duke it out in his absence. With Trump out of the room, Ramaswamy (a businessman) performed the night’s closest Trump impression, inserting himself into rhetorical scuffles, flaunting his political inexperience, and making attention-grabbing accusations.
Some of the most attention-seeking internet voices took note. “This is a branding disaster save for Vivek,” tweeted TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk.
Kirk’s fellow Trump-backing commentators also commended Ramaswamy for being the debate’s most visibly pro-Trump figure. Ramaswamy was the first candidate to raise his hand when Fox hosts asked who would support Trump as the Republican nominee, even if Trump was a convicted criminal. Ron DeSantis hesitated, then raised his hand less enthusiastically, inviting unfavorable comparisons to Ramaswamy.
“The difference between a hand raise and a limp wrist,” tweeted far-right personality Jack Posobeic.
“Vivek even raises his hand better than his competition,” tweeted Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist who now styles himself a persuasion expert, and who went on a bizarre racist rant earlier this year. “Everyone is inexperienced at being a president until they do it. I'll take the smartest person in the room, with the clearest positive vision, age 38, every time. For almost anything.”
Not that Ramaswamy’s debate performance likely makes a difference if he’s running against Trump. As of Aug. 23, Trump was polling at 52.1 percent with Republican primary voters, according to polling data aggregated by 538. Ramaswamy was polling at just 9.7 percent—a figure that might see some post-debate bump but is unlikely to surpass Trump in the near future.
Trump even joined the pro-Ramaswamy chorus at 2am on Thursday, posting a clip of Ramaswamy praising him during the debate. “This answer gave Vivek Ramaswamy a big WIN in the debate because of a thing called TRUTH. Thank you Vivek!” Trump wrote on his social media site TruthSocial.
The praise was notable after a debate that pundits described as an audition for jobs in a new Trump administration.
“One of these candidates may wind up as VP,” Fox News host Jesse Watters said shortly before the debate aired on his channel.
Loud, glib, and at times outright incorrect, Ramaswamy played for attention, rather than the approval of most Americans (who overwhelmingly disagree with him on debate-night statements, like his denial of climate change). But his appearance only needed to resonate with some of the loudest internet personalities.
“The climate change agenda is a hoax,” Ramaswamy tweeted after the debate.
“It is possibly overstated in the short term, but we should be concerned about it long term,” replied Musk. “Moving billions of tons of carbon from deep underground into the atmosphere and oceans will have an effect.”