Vivek Ramaswamy: the ‘millennial tech bro’ running for president

Anti-woke ‘demagogue’ is picking up steam in the race for the Republican nomination

Vivek Ramaswamy at the first Republican Party debate in August 2023
Many declared Ramaswamy the winner of the first Republican primary debate
(Image credit: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The multimillionaire former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy took centre stage at the first Republican debate last week as he bids to win his party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

Going into the debate in Milwaukee, Politico predicted that “all knives will be out for the political newcomer”, who at 38 is the youngest candidate in the field and who had jumped to third favourite in the polls among Republican primary voters.

Ramaswamy, a “fierce defender of [Donald] Trump”, according to Reuters, has been “gaining on many of his rivals”, with Florida governor Ron DeSantis “now fighting to retain his second-place status”. The former hedge fund investor, who founded his own company, Roivant Sciences, in 2015, declared his bid for the presidency in February. Despite being a “longshot” for the nomination, “his campaign is picking up a little steam”, said Insider.

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Who is Vivek Ramaswamy?

Ramaswamy was born on 9 August 1985 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to parents who had moved from Kerala, India. Although he was “raised in a traditional Hindu family”, he attended a private Catholic school where he “was considered an overachiever” and was nationally ranked at tennis, Insider said.

He graduated from Harvard with a degree in biology, then co-founded in 2007, a resource for young entrepreneurs. From 2007 to 2014, Ramaswamy worked at hedge fund QVT Financial, where “his knowledge of the potential of certain drugs impressed his bosses”. He became a partner at 28.

While working at QVT, he enrolled at law school and “established important connections” with the likes of current US senator J.D. Vance and the tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, said The New Yorker.

He the founded Roivant Sciences, which “bought patents from larger companies for drugs that had not yet been fully developed and marketed”, said Reuters, before resigning as CEO in 2021.

Right-wing star waging war on woke

Ramaswamy identifies as a libertarian whose “views and style rubbed some people the wrong way”, according to his former dorm mate and colleague Paul Davis, speaking to The New Yorker.

The Republican candidate has become “a fierce conservative” in recent years and wrote “Woke Inc.” in 2021, a book that “lambasts ‘wokeism’ as an insidious influence on hard work, capitalism, religious faith and patriotism”. This triggered his “rapid ascension as a right-wing star”, said Reuters.

“He thinks the climate crisis is a hoax, supports Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and would gladly pardon Donald Trump on day 1 of his would-be presidency,” wrote Margaret Sullivan in The Guardian, who has branded him “America’s demagogue-in-waiting”.

His policy positions “are mostly deeply conservative”, Reuters added. He wants to “greatly expand the powers of the president and dismantle much of the federal government” – including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He also believes Ukraine should “make concessions to Russia to end the war”, including letting the aggressor “retain parts of Ukraine it already occupies”.

Could he win the GOP nomination?

Nobody in the presidential race “has been as eager about getting in front of the media” as Ramaswamy, and “his ubiquity is paying off”, said Adam Wren in Politico. The presidential candidate “starts talking and doesn’t stop”, having done 30 interviews in one day alone, for example, and appeared in more than 150 podcasts since launching his campaign.

Many commentators “declared him victorious” in last week’s Republican Party debate, wrote Sullivan in The Guardian. For “this millennial tech bro”, his performance “couldn’t have gone much better” and “suddenly, this inexperienced and dangerous showoff is almost a household name”.

With Ramaswamy, however, placing third and sometimes second in polling, behind De Santis and Trump, Politico’s Wren asks: “But what state can he actually win? And what’s the path after that?”

Ramaswamy told the publication: “I increasingly think there’s a chance I could win Iowa”, which is the first state to vote in the Republican primaries on 15 January 2024. He was, however, seventh in a recent poll among Republican candidates in the state with just 4%. Despite this, he added: “If I can win Iowa, I can win any state.”

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Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a freelance writer at The Week Digital, and is the features editor on ITPro, another Future Publishing brand. As features editor, he commissions and publishes in-depth articles around a variety of areas including AI, cloud computing and cybersecurity. As a writer, he specialises in technology and current affairs. In addition to The Week Digital, he contributes to Computeractive and TechRadar, among other publications.