Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur, is in the running for US President
Indian-American entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was in for a lot of attention -- and drubbing in equal measure -- at the debate of eight Republican US Presidential candidates at Milwaukee last night.
Besides Ramaswamy, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott were on the stage.
Ramaswamy, who was second in lead after Trump in the latest opinion polls, declared that he was "only person on stage who is not bought and paid for".
Pence, who has spent decades in the corridors of power, took a shot at newcomer Ramaswamy, calling him a "rookie" and saying that the US has "no time for on-the-job training".
"Look, Joe Biden has weakened this country at home and abroad. Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don't need to bring in a rookie, we don't need to bring in people without experience," he said. "Vivek, you recently said a president can't do everything. Well, I've got news for you, Vivek. I have been in the hallway. I have been in the West Wing. The president of the United States has to confront every crisis facing America," Pence added in another swipe at Ramaswamy's lack of experience in politics.
This prompted a back-and-forth as Ramaswamy said that if the senior politician was done with "prepared slogans", a "real discussion" could begin. At another point in the debate, when the Indian-American entrepreneur said the US is in the "middle of a national identity crisis", Pence shot back, "We don't have an identity crisis, Vivek. We are not looking for a new national identity."
The two clashed again during an exchange on crime. Taking a swipe at Pence, Ramaswamy said, "Some others like you on this stage may have an, 'It's morning in America speech.' It is not morning in America. We live in a dark moment and we have to confront the fact that we're in an internal sort of cold cultural civil war and we have to recognise that."
Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor, said Ramaswamy's answers appeared to have come from ChatGPT. In a sharp remark, Ramaswamy said Christie is running a campaign "based on vengeance and grievance" against Trump.
Thirty-eight-year-old Ramaswamy argued with former UN ambassador Haley over the US's support to Ukraine.
"This is disastrous... we are protecting against an invasion across somebody else's border when we should use those same military resources to prevent the invasion across our southern border here in the United States of America," Ramaswamy said at the Fox News debate. "We need to secure our own border instead of somebody else's," he added.
Haley shot back, accusing him of "wanting to hand Ukraine to Russia" and adding, "You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows." she said during one of the night's most animated exchanges.
CNN termed the pile-on aimed at Ramaswamy "surprising" and said his opponents may have tried to scuttle his momentum after recent polls showed him emerging as a frontrunner.
Another takeaway of the debate was the lacklustre show by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was expected to be the focal point of the debate.
The Guardian reported that the "Florida governor was often reduced to an onlooker as Ramaswamy threw rhetorical punches and others hit him back".
"I think Ron DeSantis's campaign is over. I think we've probably been seeing that for a while," Donald Trump Jr, the eldest son of the former US president, told AFP. "Once people got to see him -- not the sort of manufactured, paid influencer, two-second clip version of him -- things changed."