Ramaswamy downplays Trump attack, says he is the future of MAGA

Republican candidate for president Vivek Ramaswamy speaks to a crowd of around 50 at the Elks Club in Waterloo on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, the morning of the Iowa Caucus. Photo by Amie Rivers/Starting Line

By Amie Rivers

January 15, 2024

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy downplayed a social media attack on him by Iowa Caucus frontrunner and former President Donald Trump who told people not to waste their vote on the political newcomer.

In Waterloo, Ramaswamy, who has largely run on Trump’s MAGA agenda but says he would be “the future” of it, was careful to place blame for the attack on Trump’s campaign and not the man directly.

“He probably had the ‘B’ team around him yesterday,” Ramaswamy told a crowd of around 50 voters at the Elks Club in Waterloo on Monday morning.

Trump used his social media platform Truth Social to go after Ramaswamy multiple times over the weekend.

“Unfortunately, now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks,” Trump said. “Very sly, but a vote for Vivek is a vote for the ‘other side’ — don’t get duped by this. Vote for ‘TRUMP,’ don’t waste your vote! Vivek is not MAGA.”

Trump’s post was the first time he has attacked Ramaswamy this cycle. It came shortly after Ramaswamy posted a picture of him with supporters who were wearing a T-shirt that said “Save Trump, Vote Vivek” that featured Trump’s mugshot inside of an outline of the state of Iowa. If elected president, Ramaswamy has pledged to pardon Trump.

Ramaswamy said Trump’s campaign was likely upset with endorsements from former Trump supporters like former US Rep. Steve King, who traveled to Waterloo with Ramaswamy on Monday.

“Let’s just speak one hard truth: We’re surging here,” Ramaswamy said.

Additionally, Ramaswamy claimed an unspecified “they” were “not gonna let [Trump] anywhere near the White House.” He also called Nikki Haley, who is polling at 20%, “a puppet who they can control.”

“They wanna narrow it down to a two-horse race, eliminate Trump, and trot their puppet into the White House,” Ramaswamy said. “That would be a national disaster for this country.”

Polling in fourth place

With hours to go until the Iowa Caucus, Ramaswamy implored voters to “stick it to the mainstream media” as many polls show him trailing significantly.

“We’ve done 390+ of these events throughout this state—blizzard or not,” Ramaswamy said.

But he acknowledged his uphill battle. He asked those in attendance to “go get 10 or 20 or 30 people who otherwise may have not come to caucus” out on Monday. Ramaswamy is polling at around 8% of likely Republican voters, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll out Saturday.

‘Biden bad’ not what party should run on

Ramaswamy bemoaned the state of the Republican Party, noting the “red wave” that failed to materialize in 2022, and said it was the party’s lack of a clear vision.

“We’re sitting here criticizing Joe Biden. … But guess what? ‘Biden bad’ is not an agenda,” he said during his 15-minute stump speech. “We have to offer an alternative vision of our own. What do we actually stand for?”

He noted he didn’t believe Trump or Haley was providing that. Ramaswamy also did not mention Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also polling ahead of him.

Take MAGA agenda ‘a lot further’

Trump “was a good President,” Ramaswamy was careful to say. “But we gotta take our America First agenda to the next level,” noting he would go “a lot further.”

That included using executive orders to fire 75% of employees of federal agencies, move US troops out of Germany and station them instead at the US borders with Canada and Mexico, end most if not all foreign aid to allied countries, and “end birthright citizenship” for children born in the US to noncitizens. Ramaswamy’s parents weren’t citizens when he was born, so he gained his citizenship through birthright.

He acknowledged those ideas have been called “radical,” and many were likely to result in lawsuits. But he said he would win those lawsuits thanks to Trump and Republicans in Congress adding conservatives to the Supreme Court.

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.


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