Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his 2024 Republican presidential bid and endorses rival Donald Trump

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BILL BARROW | AP NEWS

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy suspended his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination on Monday and endorsed former President Donald Trump after finishing a distant fourth in Iowa’s leadoff caucuses.

Ramaswamy said he made the decision after determining there was no path forward for him in the race, “absent things that we don’t want to see happen in this country.” The 38-year-old political novice, who sought to replicate Trump’s rise as a bombastic, wealthy outsider, said he called the former president earlier Monday evening to congratulate him on his victory in Iowa. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis came in second, with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley just behind in third. Ramaswamy told supporters gathered at a Des Moines hotel that Trump “will have my full endorsement for the presidency.”

He added: “And I think we’re going to do the right thing for this country. And so I’m going to ask you to follow me in taking our America First movement to the next level.” Trump, in his victory speech a few minutes earlier, said Ramaswamy “did a helluva job” in the campaign. Ramaswamy said he would likely appear with Trump in New Hampshire Tuesday night and suggested DeSantis and Haley should “follow suit” in withdrawing from the race.

During the campaign, Ramaswamy needled most of his opponents but praised Trump as “the best president of the 21st century.” He argued, though, that Republicans should opt for “fresh legs” while still supporting the America First agenda.

The approach, including his call for “revolution,” vaulted Ramaswamy into the mix of candidates vying to overtake Trump — or at least become a viable alternative. His decision to drop out, though, becomes the latest confirmation that the former president, even at 77 years old and under multiple criminal indictments, still dominates Republican politics and remains the overwhelming favorite to win the GOP nomination for the third consecutive time.

Ramaswamy’s failure also affirms how difficult it is for any Republican other than Trump to push the bounds of party orthodoxy, as the first-time candidate found little political reward for positions such as his opposition to aid for Israel and Ukraine. Ramaswamy said he would be open to vice presidential consideration. “I’m not somebody who’s going to be able to speak anyone’s convictions but my own,” he said. “So if that’s a role that I can perform from the vice presidency or any other one, I’m going to evaluate whatever is best for the future of this country.

But my No. 1 commitment is to truth.” The son of Indian immigrants, Ramaswamy entered politics at the highest level after making hundreds of millions of dollars at the intersection of hedge funds and pharmaceutical research, a career he charted and built while graduating from Harvard University and then Yale Law School.

He brought to his campaign the same brash approach he used to coax money from investors even when the drugs he touted never made it to the market. “Do you want somebody who grew up in this system who’s going to deliver incremental reform? Or do you want somebody coming in from the outside?” he said earlier in the campaign, framing his business success as a harbinger of what he could do in the Oval Office. In a rapid-fire presentation on a range of issues, Ramaswamy wowed many GOP audiences by seamlessly mixing his biography and detailed policy positions with conservative talking points.

He advocated deporting the American-born children of immigrants who reside illegally in the country. He questioned the government’s account of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and called for firing 75% of the federal workforce. He also called for raising the U.S. voting age. He hammered corporate America for its emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ramaswamy called hawkish GOP rivals “Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels” and laughed when one of them called him “scum.” But he always navigated Trump carefully, promising to pardon the former president for any federal crimes, including those related to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Yet alongside the bravado, Ramaswamy often ignored contradictory details, and his confidence sometimes brought him trouble.

He did not tell voters that he once described Trump’s denial of his 2020 defeat as “abhorrent” or that he saw Jan. 6 as a “dark day for democracy.” He didn’t say he invested in companies whose diversity, equity, and inclusion programs he calls “woke.” His isolationist views and his assertions that U.S. politicians back Israel because of their personal financial interests drew the ire of influential conservative commentators, including Sean Hannity of Fox News. Ramaswamy insisted he had a nobler purpose: “I’ll keep us out of World War III and then revive national pride in this country.”

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