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Ramaswamy: ‘I don’t have a particular personal beef with DeSantis at all’

The general consensus for the non-Donald Trump members of the 2024 GOP primary and even much of the Republican Party writ large is that the ex-president simply can not win the general election should he end up as the nominee.

But Vivek Ramaswamy, the upstart Republican candidate running against Trump, doesn’t see it that way.

The 45th president can, in fact, become the 47th, Ramawswamy told POLITICO on Monday in a 50-minute interview. He just thinks he can win by way more. By “a landslide,” to be specific.

Sipping an orange Gatorade and describing the current state of affairs as a “1776 moment,” in which the country must decide if it wants to “revive the ideals of the American Revolution,” the 37-year-old biotech entrepreneur framed his candidacy as a galvanizing movement for the country. Discussing his approach to a primary race in which he is currently averaging around 3 percent in polling — or “marginally ahead of where Trump was in June of 2015” — he downplayed the idea that he was in the field primarily to bloody up Trump’s main opponent, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

“I don’t have a particular personal beef with DeSantis at all,” said Ramaswamy, who has aimed his fire at the Florida governor while largely reserving criticism of Trump. “I agree with a lot of policies he enacted in Florida. I think he’s a good executor. He took Kristi Noem’s vision for how to deal with Covid policies in (South Dakota) and did a good job of implementing that in Florida.”

In another backhanded compliment of DeSantis, Ramaswamy suggested, without elaborating, that his book “‘Woke Inc.’ provided a lot of inspiration to what he ended up doing in Florida.”

The damage Ramaswamy has tried to inflict on DeSantis hasn’t just been rhetorical. Earlier in the day, Iowa state Sen. Scott Webster told POLITICO he was switching his endorsement from the Florida governor to Ramaswamy. Describing Ramaswamy as “the future of the Republican Party,” and suggesting that the party “get to our future now,” Webster (R-Bettendorf) cited DeSantis’ heavy-handed attacks on Disney and Ramaswamy’s extensive outreach to him as reasons he changed his mind. On the same day last month a pro-DeSantis super PAC listed Webster among its list of Iowa legislative endorsements, Webster said he and Ramaswamy met for four and a half hours for dinner.

It wasn’t just DeSantis who drew barbs from Ramaswamy. He had critiques of other fellow younger stars in politics as well.

That included Pete Buttigieg, with whom Ramaswamy has been compared at times and who he crossed paths with while undergraduates at Harvard University. “He’s a decent orator, for sure,” Ramaswamy said, of the Department of Transportation Secretary who also launched a presidential bid at the age of 37. “He’s young and certainly energetic, by comparison, to his chief competitor who beat him out … book smart.” But Ramaswamy said the similarities stop there, and that the two millennial Harvard graduates do not have a relationship.

“I think Pete is a little too diet … he is maybe the diet version of what I’m doing,” Ramaswamy said. “He’s like the Diet Coke to my Coca-Cola.”

Ramaswamy, whose personal net worth Forbes estimates to be $630 million, repeatedly attacked the prevalence and power of donor culture in politics. He accused Buttigieg and DeSantis of being “propped up” by billionaires. He called the Republican National Committee’s 40,000-donor requirement for the debate stage a breeze to reach — knocking rivals who didn’t have the grassroots money infrastructure to hit that threshold.

And he said he will disavow super PAC money if his opponents agreed to do the same.

While Ramaswamy has held some meetings with wealthy donors, he said he did so “as an experience, as a curiosity” and “mostly on reverse-bound invitations.” The meetings, he added, had a “Dinner for Schmucks feel.”

“Like you’re like a little specimen asked to be poked at and sort of dance like a little circus monkey,” Ramaswamy continued. “And I do chafe at that a little bit.”

Asked about one such meeting this year, with billionaires Steve Wynn, Thomas Peterffy and Ike Perlmutter that was previously reported by the New York Times, Ramaswamy said he was invited by a mutual acquaintance to attend and “didn’t behave in the manner that they were accustomed.”

But at that dinner, Ramaswamy said that Wynn, a longtime casino developer, gave him a helpful piece of advice he has since incorporated into his campaign stump speech.

“I haven’t seen a politician do this in a long time, and I think you can,” Ramaswamy recalled Wynn saying. “Make people feel good about themselves.”

Trump, Ramaswamy said, doesn’t do that very well, despite making people “feel heard,” which he described as a “useful national service in the year 2015 and 2016.”

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Author: POLITICO