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25 Feb, 2024 14:11

Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump rival, tops poll for vice president

The Indian-American entrepreneur is one of six candidates on the Republican frontrunner’s shortlist
Vivek Ramaswamy, former Trump rival, tops poll for vice president

Former US presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy tied with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem as the top choice for Donald Trump’s running mate among attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday. Trump has said that a wide range of candidates are being considered, including former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.

Ramaswamy and Noem both took 15% in the straw poll, with Gabbard – who in 2022 denounced her former party as elitist warmongers – coming in third place with 9%. New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott came in joint fourth place with 8% each.

The poll is unusual in that it was held while Trump has yet to secure the GOP’s nomination to face President Joe Biden this November. However, Trump has won all four Republican primary contests to date, and is considered by allies and opponents alike to be the party’s presumptive nominee.

Later on Saturday, the former president soundly defeated his only remaining challenger, Nikki Haley, in her home state of South Carolina. Despite the blow, Haley vowed to stay in the race, calling it her “duty” to represent the party’s traditional establishment wing.

Ramaswamy won support among Trump’s base during his short-lived campaign with promises to gut the federal bureaucracy, deport millions of illegal immigrants, cut funding to Ukraine, and re-evaluate the US relationship with NATO, which he called an “expansionist” bloc.

Unlike his fellow contenders – most notably Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Ramaswamy refused to publicly criticize Trump, leading many pundits to argue that his campaign was aimed at securing a place in a potential Trump administration.

The 38-year-old entrepreneur endorsed Trump after the former president’s landslide victory in Iowa last month, announcing his decision to chants of “VP” from the Iowa crowd. Ramaswamy has since traveled to New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to stump for Trump, and is set to campaign for his former rival in Michigan on Sunday.

Noem did not take part in the Republican primaries. “I was one of the first people to endorse Donald Trump to be president,” she said in her CPAC speech on Friday. “Last year, when everyone was asking me if I was going to consider running, I said no. Why would you run for president when you know you can’t win?”

Gabbard spoke at CPAC on Thursday, describing Trump as “a fighter” who is driven by “a sincere love and concern for the future of our country and his care for the American people.” In a speech described by The Guardian as “an audition for the vice-presidency,” Gabbard denounced the “Democrat elite and the swamp creatures in Washington” as power-hungry war-hawks, and the recent court judgment against Trump’s businesses as “a politically motivated hit job.”

Asked whether Ramaswamy, Noem, or Gabbard were on Trump’s “shortlist,” he told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Tuesday that “they are.” The Republican frontrunner also confirmed that Scott, DeSantis, and Florida Congressman Byron Donalds were also being considered.