Vivek Ramaswamy blitzes Iowa with 1 month left before caucus

Entrepreneur and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a town hall in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Friday. Photo by Joe Fisher/UPI
1 of 5 | Entrepreneur and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a town hall in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Friday. Photo by Joe Fisher/UPI

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Vivek Ramaswamy is all of the good things about Donald Trump without all of the bad, former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz told the town hall crowd in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Friday.

Schultz introduced Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur turned candidate for the Republican nomination, as a political outsider like Trump was in 2016.


"He's his biggest donor. He's not beholden to anybody," Schultz said.

That pitch connected with many of the two dozen people packed into a party room at the Pizza Ranch, a chain pizza restaurant that can be found all across rural Iowa. Ramaswamy quipped that he has been to more Pizza Ranches than gyms this year as he's made the Hawkeye State a second home.

Ramaswamy has blitzed Iowa throughout his campaign, but his events are growing more frequent with one month left before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus. He has pledged to do the "double Grassley," referring to longtime Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley's traditional 99 county tour. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finished his 99 county tour earlier this month, but Ramaswamy said he will do it twice.


The quick stop in Oskaloosa was Ramaswamy's second of four stops lined up on Friday. As he walked into the room, one attendee was telling a story about a neighbor of his saying Ramaswamy is "like a used-car salesman."

The 38-year-old Republican candidate for president stopped in his tracks, just outside the man's view, and waited to hear the rest of the story. After starting his Q&A, he revisited the moment.

"He asked me who I was voting for and I said I'd narrowed it down and you're one of them," the man said. "He didn't like Trump but he voted for him. None of us like his attitude or his character but he did what he said he campaigned on."

Ramaswamy agreed with the man's premise and took the opportunity to note that his opponents for the nomination were previously aligned with Trump.

"I'm the other way. I haven't been licking Trump's boots but he was a good president," Ramaswamy said. "He kept us out of war and he grew the economy. But we now have to take that 'America first' agenda to the next level. That's going to take somebody who comes from that next generation to reach that next generation."


Sarah Phillips, a high school senior from Pella, was the youngest person in the room. She said she has seen Ramaswamy on TikTok and asked how he could engage her generation. Ramaswamy encouraged her to bring as many people as she can to the caucus, even if they are not caucusing for him.

"What a cool process to participate in. Your first vote being the most impactful vote you'll make in your life," he said. "Come out and actually speak on behalf of your generation."

Phillips also asked what Ramaswamy would do about the opioid epidemic, which she said has found its way to her school. He said he would use the military to "seal the border." He also echoed his larger message that he proclaimed at the beginning of the town hall.

"There is a mental health epidemic in this country," he said. "We need to fill that vacuum of who we are. These are symptoms of a deeper void of purpose and meaning. We need to end the supply but we also have to get to that vacuum that causes people to use that in the first place."

Ramaswamy also believes that children under the age of 16 should not be allowed on social media. He cited an anecdote of an Iowa teen who in 2021 took a pill that he thought was percocet but was laced with fentanyl. The teen died. Ramaswamy said the teen acquired the pill from someone on social media.


Katie Howard voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. She is the county chair of Ramaswamy's campaign for Wapello County, Iowa.

"I like Trump. But I think that moment has passed," Howard told UPI. "I'm worried about four years of retribution if he gets in. We need to move forward. We can't be looking back at 2020 anymore."

Howard recalls a viral interaction between Ramaswamy and a woman speaking out in support of abortion access that occurred at a Republican event in Ottumwa, Iowa, in July. As Ramaswamy was speaking -- he supports a six-week ban at the state level with exceptions -- the woman loudly opposed him.

As security began to escort the woman out, Ramaswamy called her back and said to let her speak. She approached the stage and they had a brief exchange that ended with Ramaswamy thanking her.

"It was the best display of free speech and living the Constitution that I have seen in a long time," Howard said. "It was just so powerful."

Justin Chapple, a 22-year-old from Ottumwa, told UPI that Ramaswamy is "like a unicorn."

"There's a genuineness about him that you don't see in presidential candidates and politicians in general," Chapple said. "I was hearing my grandfather talking about him and I was thinking this is just too good to be true. It's like a unicorn. You just don't see this. I'm glad I was able to shake his hand and listen to him talk. It's true. I can't believe it."


Primo Giusti, Chapple's grandfather, moved from California to Iowa in 2020. He has attended campaign events for all of the Republican candidates who have come to Iowa, but he told UPI he will caucus for Ramaswamy.

"I've never been able to interact politically like I have been this year," Giusti said. "The thing I love about the caucus system, and because of it, is the fact that we have access to so many candidates. I say the more the merrier, because I want to hear every opinion. I want to hear what each one of them has to say."

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