After a splashy debut at last month’s first Republican presidential debate, Vivek Ramaswamy has gone from an unknown to a contender who’s now facing questions about his youth and lack of political experience, especially given his position as the first millennial to run for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s being vetted over how he made his millions at the biotech company he started in his late 20s and frequent shifts in his foreign policy platform. He’s also facing questions about how he would, if elected, enact his agenda and defend it from legal challenges.
One of the latest moments to illustrate this came last week when, a few days after a dinner with social media personality Jake Paul, he became the first of the major GOP primary candidates to join TikTok in an effort to appeal to younger voters, despite his concerns. Up until that point, he had railed against TikTok, calling it an addictive “digital fentanyl” and expressing an openness to ban it as part of his broader platform on curbing China’s power.
“I’m a person who’s always open to new arguments,” he told reporters hours after he posted his first TikTok. “In this case, yes, I changed my mind.”
The moment underscores a growing challenge for Ramaswamy and his campaign ahead of the second GOP primary debate: proving that his policy platform is substantive, even as it’s constantly evolving.
Ramaswamy has gained ground in national and state polls, where he frequently places behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll of Granite State voters released last Wednesday showed him in a close race for second place with three rivals trailing Trump, who was the top choice of 39% of likely GOP primary voters surveyed. Ramaswamy, at 13%, ran about even with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at 12%, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 11% and DeSantis at 10%.
He’s built his message around the idea that Americans lack purpose and meaning, and that the country needs someone like him – young, unjaded and an outsider without the baggage of Trump – to help restore the country’s national identity.