Master of Puppets

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy points during a commercial break in the NewsNation Republican primary debate on December 6, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

We should be careful about taking Vivek Ramaswamy too seriously as a presidential candidate. 

Yes, there’s his, ahem, live streaming, his wankster vibes, and his fondness for dubious company, like in his campaign swing with former Iowa Rep. Steve King, who, after years of trying, finally found the bottom for acceptable rhetoric for a member of the House of Representatives.

But while you can laugh at the longshot if you want, we should also acknowledge his dextrous manipulation of a certain segment of the electorate. He may not be effective as a candidate for president, but he has certainly made a strong connection with the GOP electorate. In one poll this fall, Ramaswamy only managed 4 percent support among Republican presidential voters nationally, but was viewed favorably by 36 percent of the party overall and by about half of all self-described MAGA supporters.   

That was before he won more hearts on that side of the GOP for his prop-comedy routine targeting former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in the most recent GOP debate. These folks may like Ramaswamy because he’s helping Trump by attacking his rivals, but also because Ramaswamy knows what grinds their gears. That, chiefly, is the belief that a) everything is terrible and b) shadowy forces are making it that way.

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