(Reuters) – Vivek Ramaswamy, a multimillionaire former biotech executive, has a chance to build on the attention he has been getting in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination at Wednesday night’s second debate.
Here are some facts about Ramaswamy’s life and career:
A HINDU RAISED IN THE AMERICAN MIDWEST
Ramaswamy, 38, was born in Ohio to immigrant parents from southern India. He was raised in the Hindu faith of his parents, but went to a Roman Catholic high school. He earned a biology degree at Harvard University before moving on to Yale Law School.
Ramaswamy worked as a hedge fund investor and says he had already made several million dollars before graduating from Yale. In 2014, he founded his own biotech company, Roivant Sciences, which bought patents from larger companies for drugs that had not yet been fully developed and marketed. He resigned as CEO in 2021. In 2023, the business magazine Forbes estimated Ramaswamy’s wealth at $630 million.
A FORMER LIBERTARIAN RAPPER WITH A PATCHY VOTING RECORD
Ramaswamy says he was a libertarian during college. While at Harvard, he would perform libertarian-themed rap songs under the stage name Da Vek. He has reprised some of his rap skills on the campaign trail this year. His performance of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at the Iowa State Fair this month went viral on social media.
Ramaswamy says he voted for a libertarian in the 2004 presidential election, but did not vote in 2008, 2012 or 2016. He has contributed to both Republican and Democratic candidates. He says he voted for Republican then-President Donald Trump in 2020.
AN ‘ANTI-WOKE’ CRUSADER
In recent years Ramaswamy has become a fierce conservative. In his 2021 bestseller “Woke, Inc.,” Ramaswamy decries decisions by some big companies to base business strategy around social justice and climate change concerns, and lambastes “wokeism” as an insidious influence on hard work, capitalism, religious faith and patriotism. The book raised Ramaswamy’s profile among conservatives, and he began his rapid ascension as a right-wing star.
REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Ramaswamy declared his campaign for president in February, at a time when his bid looked like a long shot. He still languishes in the single digits in most opinion polls but has been gaining on many of his rivals, most notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is now fighting to retain his second-place status.
Ramaswamy’s strong, pugnacious performance in the first debate last month, when he laid out an agenda even further to the right of Trump on some issues, earned him a lot of attention, as well as criticism, and boosted him in some Republican primary opinion polls.
He has been a fierce defender of Trump while seeking to appeal to Christian evangelicals, an important part of the Republican primary electorate. Although a Hindu, Ramaswamy has been telling voters that the U.S. is based on “Christian values” and “Judeo-Christian values” and has described himself as an American nationalist.
His policy positions are mostly deeply conservative. He opposes affirmative action and supports state-level bans on abortion after six weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and if the mother’s life is in danger. Ramaswamy wants to greatly expand the powers of the presidency and dismantle much of the federal government, including the FBI, the Department of Education and the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service.
He opposes NATO membership for Ukraine and has said Kyiv should make concessions to Russia to end the war, including allowing it to retain parts of Ukraine it already occupies.
(Reporting by Tim Reid, editing by Ross Colvin, Andy Sullivan and Jonathan Oatis)