The abysmal end of Vivek Ramaswamy
It was *never* going to end well.
“You’re just scum.”
That was the judgment rendered by Nikki Haley on Vivek Ramaswamy in last night’s debate — following an exchange in which Ramaswamy sought to make an issue of her 25 year old daughter’s use of TikTok.
It was one of several lowlights in the debate for Ramaswamy, who seemed desperate to make news — or at least noise — at the third presidential debate in Miami.
Ramaswamy signaled his plan in an interview before the debate — in which he told ABC he would be “unhinged” in the proceedings. Mission accomplished!
Aside from going after Haley’s daughter — a strictly verboten practice even in politics — Ramaswamy:
Attacked the moderators from NBC, demanding they apologize for their role in the “Trump-Russia collusion hoax.”
Called on Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel to resign — after referring to Republicans as the “party of losers.”
Referred to Haley as “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels” and attacked her as — and I am paraphrasing only slightly here — a warmonger.
Called Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky “a comedian in cargo pants.”
There was more — but you get the idea.
I am sure Ramaswamy (and his team) saw his debate performance as “shaking up the squares” or something. For me, it looked a lot more like the political death throes of a campaign that is effectively over.
I think you can trace the arc of Ramaswamy’s campaign through his performance in the three debates.
In the first, in August, he was on the come up. He looked and sounded different than everyone else on the stage. He was purposely provocative — and people reacted to it. Google searches for his name went through the roof. He was different. Charismatic.
His poll numbers bumped up after that first debate. Not amazingly so. But he went from 2% to 7% — which is something!
All eyes then were on Ramaswamy in the 2nd debate in late September — to see what he would do and whether he could build on the support he had won so far.
The candidate that appeared on stage that night was almost unrecognizable from the guy in the first debate. Ramaswamy was — dare I say it — understated. He repeatedly resisted answering attacks directed at him from others on the stage. He kept emphasizing how much the candidates agreed on — and urging them to talk about that.
It was, in a word, bizarre. I didn’t totally get what Ramaswamy was doing in the moment. But the more I thought about it, the more I am convinced he was trying to make a play to go broader with his support. To show people who were interested in him but still skeptical that he could be, well, presidential.
It didn’t work. The story of the month (or so) between the last debate and the one on Wednesday night was the steady fade of Ramaswamy as a factor in the race.
After peaking at 7.5% (on average) in national polling on September 23, Ramaswamy now takes under 5% support, according to Real Clear Politics. He’s the light blue line in this chart:
And it wasn’t just national polls either. As Semafor’s Dave Weigel noted of the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll:
Ramaswamy's Iowa fade is notable in new DMR poll: No change in overall support since summer (4%) but negatives way up, from 20% to 37%. Biggest jump in unfavorables of any GOP candidate.
South Carolina was no better. Again, here’s Weigel on a recent CNN poll in the state:
The gig was up. And people started to notice.
Peter Hamby, writing for Puck, penned a pre-obituary for Ramaswamy in mid October. Here’s the key bit:
A full list of Ramaswamy’s flip-flops would stack higher than his hair. In one of his books, he called Trump “a sore loser.” Now he calls him “the best president of the 21st Century.” He said he’d be open to cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, then said cutting aid to Israel “makes zero sense.” He called TikTok “digital fentanyl,” but he’s also the only G.O.P. candidate with an account on the Chinese-owned app. He once recorded a video celebrating the new federal holiday Juneteenth, before later calling it a “useless” holiday that should be canceled. He promises to represent America’s younger generations as the first millennial Republican candidate for president, while also saying the country should raise the voting age to 25 unless you can pass a citizenship test. He claims to be a general in the war against the woke left, but also said he had never voted until the year 2020 (a claim that also turned out to be a lie).
That’s just a sample of Ramaswamy’s shifting views on pretty much everything, and his refusal to own up any of it is precisely what made Hannity want to shove him in a locker. After a while, the bit gets old.
All of which brings us to the third debate last night — in which Ramaswamy quite clearly decided to go out swinging. He was hectoring. And lecturing. And glib. A used car salesman on steroids. The biggest know-it-all you have ever met. And sorry not sorry for any of it.
Watching the debate, the words of Pablo Torre — a sports commentator who went to Harvard with Ramaswamy — kept running through my head. When Ramaswamy first began to emerge as a candidate, Torre described him as “That Guy” in college. Torre explained it this way:
‘That Guy’ is insanely ambitious, he’s incredibly image conscious — he cares about how he appears. But he is totally undeterred by how much the people around him are all cringing at how awful and uncomfortable all of this is.
That’s it exactly. Ramaswamy was a curiosity, a nuisance and then just downright annoying. And voters sniffed it out.
Turn out the lights. It’s over for Vivek. The only question now is when he drops out and endorses Donald Trump.