Vivek Ramaswamy, flanked by supporters in “Truth” hats and a Christmas tree in the background, listened as a young voter explained how his 66-year-old father has never been more impressed with a candidate.
“That means a lot to me,” Ramaswamy said during a campaign stop Friday in Iowa. “Tell him when I hear that what I experience is a weight of responsibility on my shoulders when I hear that, but tell him I appreciate that.”
When the voter added he’s heard the same sentiment from a lot of young voters, the 2024 GOP candidate said, “If you help bring all of them to the caucus, that’s how we are going to win this.”
It was one of the many events Ramaswamy held this week in the Hawkeye State as the self-proclaimed outsider and businessman tries to convince voters why he should be the Republican nominee instead of former President Donald Trump, who leads him by more than 50 points in most national polls.
By the end of Saturday, Ramaswamy will have participated in 42 campaign stops this week − more than any other 2024 candidate. He’ll keep up his rigorous timetable next week, hitting 38 events.
While he acknowledges there is a “logistically grueling element” to his schedule, the 38-year-old Ramaswamy is campaigning caffeine-free. He said he’s staying motivated by the energy of the crowds in Iowa, the first state to hear from voters next month, as he blitzes crucial early battlegrounds.
“I’m confident that’s going to be the right way to get elected − not being insulated from the people who are representing, but in many ways, being responsive to the people we’re representing,” he told USA TODAY. “I’d rather spend time with these caucusgoers and Pizza Ranches across the state, rather than being a cloistered mega donor retreat.”
In a line he’s repeated in other public appearances, Ramaswamy said it all stems from a lesson learned from his parents.
“Here’s how you spell luck: W-O-R-K,” Ramaswamy said. “It’s always been a formula that has worked for me in my life and be it in my academic background, be it as a student, be it in my career, as a businessman and now on this journey.”
‘There’s no downtime’
Ramaswamy, a Yale law school graduate with a net worth of about $630 million, is running his campaign like he’s run his businesses − with very little time off.
Anson Frericks, who co-founded the company Strive Asset Management with Ramaswamy early last year, told USA TODAY there’s no time for rest in the businessman’s schedule.
“There’s no one that I’ve ever met that gets up in the morning, works out while he’s taking phone calls,” said Frericks, who’s known Ramaswamy since high school.
“Then while he is showering and brushing his teeth, he is taking phone calls, reading the news,” said Frericks, Ramaswamy’s 40-year-old friend in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Then he has a full calendar and agenda that’s packed. Literally every hour all day long −10, 11, 12 o’clock at night, and then in between − even if there’s like 30 minutes of downtime − it’s probably writing something when he’s at his computer or he is taking notes in his book.”
Ramaswamy worked 16 hours per day at Strive, Frericks said, and that work ethic culture “permeated” throughout the organization.
“We set expectations ahead of time that this was a performance driven organization,” Frericks said. “This was a meritocratic organization. It wasn’t for everybody…we did a pretty good job hiring based off of exceptional work ethic, people that were very courageous, and people that did whatever it takes to create one of the fastest growing asset management companies in the country.”
Ramaswamy’s staff deals with a heavy campaign schedule
On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy and his staff are grappling with some of the decades-old campaign side effects in America: sleep deprivation and a Pizza Ranch diet.
Tricia McLaughlin, senior advisor and communications director for Ramaswamy, said before she joined Ramaswamy’s campaign, she would call her mom every day. Now those conversations are limited to once a week.
Sleep is rare for the entire staff, she added, and she doesn’t remember the last time she watched a TV show.
“We’re typically on the trail, pretty much out the door by I would say 5 (a.m.), 7 (a.m.),” McLaughlin said. “And we’re typically getting back around 10 or 10:30 (p.m.). So hopefully we get to bed by midnight or 1 (a.m.) and then you’re up again by by 5 or 6 (a.m.).”
Ramaswamy acknowledged the long days and little sleep.
“I think there’s no substitute for being here on the ground and present,” he said of his frequent campaign stops. “And as it relates to the work and the sacrifice needed, sure…there’s some sacrifice involved in achieving something important for this country.”
Since most of the day is spent on the campaign bus or in buildings for events, stepping outside to get fresh air or drinking coffee are some ways McLaughlin keeps up her energy. But she said she won’t lie: the exercise has fallen off.
“The Pizza Ranches on the Iowa campaign trail – it can be tempting to get the fried chicken pizza, but trying to avoid that for this hour,” McLaughlin said.
Ramaswamy told USA TODAY his diet, on the other hand, principally consists of Pizza Ranch.
Some of his other campaign-trail favorites include a Thai place near his campaign headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, and cheese enchiladas, according to McLaughlin.
Ramaswamy balances professional life with family obligations
Ramaswamy is juggling his presidential aspirations with fatherhood, and Frericks said he has been able to “seamlessly integrate” his professional life and family life on the campaign trail.
Ramaswamy has shared videos on X, formerly Twitter, of feeding or reading books to his 1-year-old son Arjun or discussing naptime with his 3-year-old son Karthik. He previously told USA TODAY before a New Hampshire town hall that he frequently listens to the soundtracks from “Cars 2′ and “Monsters Inc.”
When Ramaswamy is at a campaign event, a babysitter sometimes watches the kids, McLaughlin said. Other times, they join the businessman as he makes his case to voters.
His wife Apoorva Ramaswamy, a Yale-educated throat cancer surgeon, joins the campaign trail when she is free of her duties in the operating room.
“We have an obligation to introduce ourselves to the American people to help them understand who we are and what we stand for, but along the way they are teaching us about the things that are important to them. The people we meet through this process are kind and brave and fun and interesting,” Apoorva Ramaswamy told USA TODAY. “To be honest, we are having fun.”
In it to win it
While Ramaswamy’s schedule may seem demanding, his team views it as necessary to be successful when voters start to choose candidates in less than a month.
“That’s what it’s gonna take to to win,” McLaughlin said. ”That’s what it’s gonna take to, to surprise and shock the system.”
Some voters are taking notice of the candidate’s numerous campaign events.
Jack Terry, an 87-year-old retired attorney in Houston, Texas, told USA TODAY he sees Ramaswamy “working very hard” and attributes that trait to his business career.
“He’s just seems to be everywhere now,” Terry, a Republican voter, said. “So I’m kind of surprised that he didn’t have any more traction than he does.”
Ramaswamy is still fourth in most national polls, behind Trump, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Caroline Sunshine, national press secretary for Ramaswamy, said that this is where his age becomes an asset and why there should be a younger leader in the White House.
With more than 30 campaign stops per week, 18- to 20-hour days ever day and traveling all the time, “It helps that he is 38 years old,” Sunshine said.
“He’s got the vitality you need to do it. You see how hard he is willing to work to earn it, imagine how hard he’ll be willing and able to work for this country as its president,” Sunshine added.
That trait certainly appeals to Margarite Goodenow, an 86-year-old retired food service worker in Council Bluffs, Iowa, who saw him at an event in August.
“He exhibits such enthusiasm, in his oratory, you listen to him,” Goodenow, a Republican voter, said. “You don’t tend to lose your attention span or drift off into something else. I just think he’s very gifted in terms of oratory.”
But Ramaswamy still needs more voters if he’s going to force an upset in Iowa, and that’s why he’s filling up his calendar.
“I think the part that gives me energy is seeing how earnest so many of these people who have come to our events really are about our country,” he said.
“And I’m doing my small part,” Ramaswamy said. “And it feels like we’re building a community in this campaign and a movement of a kind that I don’t think we can build if we were just doing it via television or even social media.”
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