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Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy recently made a surprise move in December when his campaign suspended all TV ad spending just a few weeks away from the Iowa caucus (January 15) and New Hampshire primary (January 23). Those are the first major steps in the path to securing the party’s nomination to run for president in November.
With poll numbers in the single digits for Ramaswamy, this would be considered a death blow even at the main betting sites. But Ramaswamy’s team insists this is just a change in strategy and a better way for the biotech entrepreneur to spend money to find his voters.
But is the end near, and will Ramaswamy inevitably endorse Donald Trump for the Republic nomination? We look at where his campaign stands in early January.
Who Is Vivek Ramaswamy?
If you need this answer now, then chances are you won’t be voting for Ramaswamy later this year. But not everyone can just enter a presidential race with instant name recognition like Donald Trump did in 2015.
Vivek Ramaswamy is a 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur and Indian-American who considers himself “the outsider” in this race. He was a hedge fund investor before founding multiple biotech companies. His former pharmaceutical research company, Roivant Sciences, was valued at $7.3 billion in 2021, the same year he stepped down as CEO to take on other ventures.
If you watched any of the televised Republic debates, then you know Ramaswamy is a young, brash businessman, and he is not afraid to insult his peers on the stage and challenge them.
While he is making a name for himself in this election cycle, most polling has him in single digits and trailing his peers, who are all trailing former president Donald Trump by a wide margin.
Why Is Ramaswamy Canceling TV Ads?
In November, Ramaswamy’s campaign promised to spend more than $10 million on all advertising (TV, radio, digital and mail) in Iowa and New Hampshire alone. According to AdImpact, the campaign has spent only $2.2 million.
Tricia McLaughlin is the campaign’s press secretary. In an interview with NBC News, she said the campaign is “focused on bringing out the voters we’ve identified — best way to reach them is using addressable advertising, mail, text, live calls, and doors to communicate with our voters on Vivek’s vision for America, making their plan to caucus and turning them out.”
As a younger businessman in tech, it is understandable why Ramaswamy would have a team that is taking a different data-based approach to reach voters in ways beyond conventional TV ads.
Even sources inside the Trump team have stated how this run is so much more advanced and targeted than in 2016 when they didn’t really know what a caucus was, what they were doing, and they just coasted on his popularity. Winning events like the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary take a lot of effort, and this team is trying to utilize the means of communication we now have beyond cable TV to do so.
Logically, this does make sense. Many of the people who will even watch political ads on TV are an older bloc of voters with cable TV subscriptions – people who are likely to watch the local news or opt for CNN or Fox News.
There was a time when reaching those viewers in mass was hugely important because the main networks could get several million viewers at peak TV times.
But in recent years, people have shifted their viewing habits thanks to things like smartphones, tablets, streaming services, and social media. People largely live in their own “echo chamber” now where their social media feed is an algorithm feeding them the content they want to read that suits them best based on past viewing experiences.
Ramaswamy wants to tap into the younger voting bloc of Gen Z and millennials (ages 18-45), and those are the people least likely to be watching political ads on TV. They are too busy looking at their Twitter (X) and TikTok feeds.
It makes sense why the 38-year-old candidate feels this way. But we will see if it pays off for him, because to win a nomination in the Republican party, you have to reach those older voters who are glued to the TV and Fox News. Going to the debates and making appearances on Fox is great exposure for Ramaswamy, but is that still enough for the Republican party?
Only the voters will tell.
Will Ramaswamy Endorse Donald Trump?
Never one to shy away from political news and how it relates to him, former president Trump weighed in on Truth Social with his thoughts about Ramaswamy’s decision to stop spending money for TV ads:
“He will, I am sure, Endorse me. But Vivek is a good man, and is not done yet!”
Ramaswamy has no doubt defended Trump during the Republican debates, and he may compare more favorably to the Trump base than the likes of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and anyone else running against the former president on the Republican side.
Some have even called Ramaswamy a “more extreme Trump” with his “America First” and anti-government agendas.
So, it would seem only natural and expected that once Ramaswamy’s campaign comes to a close, he will endorse Trump for president. This day could come sooner than later, especially if Ramaswamy’s plan backfires and he does not perform well in Iowa and New Hampshire.
From the polls at FiveThirtyEight to the oddsmakers’ latest on political markets, things are not looking good for Ramaswamy. He routinely trails DeSantis and Haley by wide margins, not to mention Trump.
Average poll results as of January 4, 2024 via FiveThirtyEight:
- Donald Trump – 61.8%
- Ron DeSantis – 12.1%
- Nikki Haley – 11.2%
- Vivek Ramaswamy – 4.8%
- Chris Christie – 3.4%
- Asa Hutchinson – 0.8%
If that’s how things shake out in the coming weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire, you may see Vivek suspending the campaign and all spending entirely this month. But he would be wise to endorse Trump and make sure he is viable to that base of voters.
Perhaps by 2028 when the parties finally nominate candidates other than Trump and Joe Biden, Ramaswamy is someone who can be more of a household name and more viable to Republican voters.