As the GOP primary narrows, Vivek Ramaswamy mulls a new possibility: Defeat

DES MOINES, Iowa — Vivek Ramaswamy is talking about something new on the trail: There is a chance he will not be successful in the upcoming primary races. 

The entrepreneur has long told voters that he is “going to shock the world” and “be successful” in 2024 after coming out of nowhere to play a role in the presidential race. But lately, he has started pairing those sentiments with a caveat.

“I get a lot of people that say, ‘Hey, I like what you’re saying, if you don’t do it this time, do it in the future.’ That’s fine for me, I don’t think our country has that kind of timeline,” he told a group of voters at a Pizza Ranch in Carroll, Iowa, on Nov. 30. 

Ramaswamy’s first message is still that he’s going to win. When asked by NBC News if he’d consider joining former President Donald Trump’s ticket as vice president, Ramaswamy simply said he thinks he will be successful in Iowa’s caucuses.

It’s a place where he has held over 100 events in the last few months, and pledges to do two “full Grassleys,” hoping to hit all 99 counties twice. “I think we have a path to shock the world here. And that’s what I’m focused on. And I think that we’re going to deliver that major surprise,” he added. 

“If I’m wrong about that, then, you know, obviously, I’ll rethink things,” Ramaswamy said. “But I don’t think I am. I think we’re going to be delivering a major surprise here in about 50 days.” 

Ramaswamy added a similar future-facing note to his usual bullish predictions during an event in Marshalltown, Iowa, in November. “I will be best positioned to reunite this country from the front, and I will take Trump as probably my most important adviser and mentor during my first year in office,” he said. “I expect that — you know what, if he’s the nominee, he will have my support to go all the way, and I expect the same in return.”

And on Saturday, while hosting an event on eminent domain and efforts to build underground pipelines to move carbon dioxide emitted from ethanol and industrial plants in Iowa to North Dakota, Ramaswamy again mentioned a possible defeat.

“If for whatever reason, I am not successful this spring in winning the Republican nomination, I will continue in my advocacy on this issue until we have achieved our goal,” he said to a room of Iowans. 

That type of statement was almost nonexistent while Ramaswamy campaigned during the summer months, nor has it popped up as Ramaswamy has commanded attention at the presidential debates so far. But with the 2024 nominating contests about to start, the 38-year-old appears to be thinking about his political career beyond this race, whether he wins it or not. He is at 5% support in Iowa in multiple public polling averages.

Ramaswamy’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Ramaswamy has been stoking conflict with more established figures in Republican politics, including the Republican National Committee, as he continues to build up a public identity as a political outsider. Ramaswamy is likely to criticize the RNC from the debate stage again Wednesday night, he said during an event hosted by the Alabama GOP on Tuesday in Birmingham.

“I say some things that get me in trouble with the establishment from time to time,” Ramaswamy said. “Probably going to continue with that tomorrow night. But that is what this campaign is about: speaking the truth, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard; speaking the truth, not just to the other side, but to our own tribe and our own party right here in the Republican Party. The things I say are controversial not because they are false, but because they are true.”

During the Iowa State Fair in August, while Ramaswamy and Trump were in the same location, he wished the former president well but insisted that he would be the Republican nominee.

“You know what, might give him a fist bump if I see him on the way, but same as the other candidates. I saw a few of them today. I wish them all well. I’m going to be the nominee,” he told reporters.

And again while visiting a restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa, appearing on “Fox and Friends”: “So basically, most people even in this room and across the country in the Republican base, didn’t know who I was six months ago. Now, when you look across the country, many Democrats haven’t yet heard of me. I am confident that when I am the nominee, we will position that to win the election in a landslide.”