The Elusive Draw of Vivek Ramaswamy
Energizing an ever-growing divided Republican party (see Congress) seems like a hard task to do nowadays for many presidential candidates. However, I had the opportunity to see Vivek Ramaswamy give it his best shot as he attempted to breathe life into a large crowd in Altoona, Iowa, on a Saturday evening.
Iowans have a lot of options for Saturday night activities, especially when the Hawkeyes or Cyclones are playing, but a little over a hundred made the trek to Pizza Ranch to see the political outsider speak. In fact, one of those visitors was not an Iowan, but a Minnesotan! This visitor traveled several hours to see his old friend. According to him, Ramaswamy always had eyes on the presidential office, and it was no surprise that he was running for president at this stage in his life.
Pizza Ranch, a staple in the Iowa Caucuses, is an all-you-can-eat buffet with pizza, chicken, and other options, with locations scattered across the state. In recent years, it would be a mishap if a candidate did not visit a location at least once.
“TRUTH,” a central theme of Ramaswamy’s campaign, was on full display across the room with posters and a giant banner proclaiming the word. This continued as Ramaswamy began his speech. The central tenant to his “TRUTH” is “God is Real” which was apparent in the brief prayer that was shared among the crowd. The crowd was actively engaged with the young candidate and asked questions in which Ramaswamy had great responses that pleased the crowd. The diverse crowd was an anomaly from other candidate events. There was a diverse population in terms of age as well as race.
With this potential new bloc of Republican voters that Ramaswamy is engaging, turning out on caucus night quickly became a theme towards the end of the program. The Chair of Polk County Republicans, Gloria Mazza, stressed for those in the crowd to become a caucus helper in their precinct and warned that they cannot have a disaster on caucus night like Democrats did in 2020. Ramaswamy stressed in personal conversations after the event that caucus goers need to have a plan on January 15. Directed specifically at the younger voters in the audience, he encouraged them to bring 10 friends with them to caucus night.
As people left, they grabbed “TRUTH” signs and bumper stickers. With this rise in popularity and dissemination of merchandise, it will be interesting to see how Ramaswamy leverages the rest of his time in Iowa and if it will translate into results.