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‘Wanting to be famous’: How Vivek Ramaswamy sought podcast stardom before White House race

In early 2023, biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy he convened a small group of conservative operatives to discuss “the exciting plans” he had for the coming months.

“I will run for the presidency,” Ramaswamy said on the call.

Several sources who were on the call tell ABC News they were baffled by the news. They had imagined that perhaps Ramaswamy, then a little-known biotech millionaire, had been working on a new business venture, or was writing a book, or even considering a Senate run in his home state of Ohio, but throwing a long -The offer for the White House was the last thing they expected.

Ramaswamy presented himself as a candidate who could make serious waves in the Republican primary at the meeting. When met with some skepticism, Ramaswamy argued that his candidacy could also deter the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis to enter the race, according to a source who was at the call. Before his announcement, Ramaswamy told several other conservative activists that he believed if he ran, it could prevent DeSantis from running or affect his viability as a candidate if he entered the race, the sources said.

Fast forward six months, and Ramaswamy, a relative unknown before his long-shot bid for the White House, has made some serious waves in the Republican primaries as he continues to grab headlines ahead of this week’s. first debate in the GOP primaries.

While ex-president donald trump remains the frontrunner, Ramaswamy, despite lower name recognition than his more seasoned rivals, has climbed to third in the polls, according to FiveThirtyEight’s national averages.

His presidential bid has already elevated Ramaswamy from a little-known conservative principle who occasionally appeared on Fox News to a candidate who has received as much Google search interest as former Vice President Mike Pence and former ambassador to the ‘UN Nikki Haley. His campaign has boosted Ramaswamy’s social media presence, with his number of followers on Twitter, now known as X, nearly quadrupling from just over 236,000 before he announced his candidacy to nearly 1 million followers just six months later.

Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during a fundraiser, Aug. 6, 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

Despite Ramaswamy’s success — or possibly because of it — some critics have accused the political neophyte of running for president simply to raise his stature.

“In short,” conservative columnist Scott Morefield wrote in a recent Townhall column, “whether Donald Trump wins the primary and manages to pull off a miraculous victory in the general or does as predicted and loses big, Vivek Ramaswamy wins , to say the least. , a massive profile increase.”

In fact, ABC News has learned that Ramaswamy, 38, was pursuing another potentially high-profile venture before launching his presidential bid.

The face of a new podcast

Before that meeting where Ramaswamy pitched his 2024 career, the successful businessman had gone down a different path, one that was in development but failed before he decided to launch a long-term bid to the White House, ABC News has been said.

Heading into 2022, Ramaswamy had signed a deal and had been working with popular right-wing media company The Daily Wire on a project that was ultimately scrapped, according to multiple sources familiar with the project. The deal was unlike anything the Daily Wire had previously done with its talent: The company, which in 2022 said it earned $200 million, signed Ramaswamy in hopes of building a show around him .

The project, which was slated to debut in 2022, would have seen Ramaswamy as the face of a new podcast focused on politics and economics, according to several sources familiar with its development.

The leadership of The Daily Wire, which includes founder and popular conservative social media star Ben Shapiro, had noticed Ramaswamy when he began appearing on Fox News and other conservative outlets around the release of his book, ” Woke, Inc.” In particular, the company’s leadership was attracted to Ramaswamy’s ability to communicate conservative ideas and policies, sources said.

The show had been in development for a few months before it was called off, according to sources. According to sources, Ramaswamy had been deeply involved in the process and had shot several tests for the show with The Daily Wire crew members who flew to Ohio to help with development before the company aired the project.

While it’s not immediately clear exactly why the show was dropped, Daily Wire CEO Jeremy Boreing, who is currently on leave from the company while he directs a fantasy series for the company’s streaming service, told ABC News in an interview that after a month long development. process with Ramasamy, the company parted ways with him after it became clear that his priorities had changed.

“Their priorities were changing. And we could have chosen to be aggressive about it; we spent some money on the preparation that we had been doing,” Boreing said, noting that the company agreed to let Ramasamy out of the contract development as the tech entrepreneur looked to launch Strive, which branded itself as an “anti-woke” asset management firm.

However, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News that some of The Daily Wire’s leaders soured on Ramaswamy as the development process progressed. Some in the team began to feel that Ramaswamy looked “too political” and “too scripted” for the company’s brand, and there were issues surrounding the biotech entrepreneur not taking quite seriously preparing for the show, sources told ABC News.

At a company meeting a few months after the decision was made to scrap plans for the show, a Daily Wire executive told the company that the company “dodged a bullet” by deciding not to work with Ramaswamy, the sources

While Boreing, who was CEO at the time, said he can’t speak for all of the company’s employees, he denied that The Daily Wire’s leadership felt it had dodged a bullet, telling ABC News: “I’ve never heard any of those words used.”

“It was my deal, this was my project and, in the end, I’m the one who decided to carry [Ramaswamy] come in and I’m the one who decided to let him out. And I certainly didn’t think it was too ‘political’ or a bad fit. I thought it would be a great fit,” Boreing said.

After the show flopped, Boreing said Ramaswamy called him to let him know he was about to launch his presidential campaign a week before he made the announcement, which Boreing said he took for granted. surprise.

“I could really relate to the absurdity … And I really admired the absurdity of, ‘I’m going to run for president in a week or two,’ or whatever since call,” he recalled. Boreing, who said he was surprised to learn that Ramaswamy was involved in politics and had never heard him talk about running for the presidency before.

“I felt this kind of sense of kinship, not because I had any aspirations to run for office, but just because of the kind of entrepreneurial craziness of it all,” Boreing said. “I thought it was great.”

“You want to be famous”

As Ramaswamy has climbed in the polls, speculation has grown about his motivations for running for president.

Some have claimed his campaign is a shadowy effort to secretly help Trump fend off a challenge from DeSantis and the party’s nomination, a criticism that has gained traction because of Ramaswamy. Trump hug on the campaign trail.

Others say his long-term bid is simply an effort to raise his profile by embracing Trump and his supporters.

Growing his brand in conservative media has long been a goal for the biotech millionaire, according to sources who used to work closely with Ramaswamy.

“It’s clear he’s wanted to be famous for a long time,” a person who had advised Ramaswamy told ABC News.

Another Republican aide who advised Ramaswamy early in his campaign told ABC News there was frustration among staff early on because the candidate was more concerned with making than his campaign podcast, titled “The Vivek Show “, rather than strategizing. how to win the party nomination.

“So why is Vivek running?” Morefield wrote in his column. “It’s hard to imagine it’s not for one or two of the following reasons: 1) To raise his profile and secure some sort of publicity in the next administration. 2) To pave the way for a Trump defeat of DeSantis” .

Asked for comment on this story, Ramaswamy’s senior adviser Tricia McLaughlin told ABC News, referring to DeSantis: “Does one of your sources live in a publicly funded mansion in Tallahassee, Florida? “

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign rally in Newport, NH on August 19, 2023.

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a campaign rally in Newport, NH on August 19, 2023.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

“I’m sure they’ll add that to their pre-set attack memo for the debate,” McLaughlin said.

However, even Ramaswamy’s harshest critics cannot deny his results so far in the campaign. Since entering the race, Ramaswamy has received widespread acclaim in conservative, mostly pro-Trump circles. At the recent Turning Point Action Conference, the majority of the largely pro-Trump crowd voted Ramaswamy as their second choice for the presidency, with 51% of the vote.

This success seems to have put Ramaswamy in the crosshairs of his rivals in the upcoming debate, they said documents published online by a group associated with the DeSantis-allied super PAC Never Back Down that outlines how the governor might fight back if attacked by his rivals.

“Hammer Vivek Ramaswamy in a response,” is listed as the third of “four basic must-haves” for DeSantis on the debate stage, adding that he must “Take a hammer to Vivek Ramaswamy: ‘Fake Vivek’ or ” Vivek the fake”.

“Vivek’s job on August 23 is to present himself and his vision to the American people,” McLaughlin said in response. “These boring, canned attack lines from a robotic candidate don’t change that.”

Ramaswamy says he is in the running to win and would not be open to running alongside Trump. He says he believes he is the only candidate who can pull off a “Reagan-style” 1980s landslide victory as part of a “Ramaswamy revolution” in 2024, pointing to his ability to connect with voters that Trump refuse

“I think I go further with the America First agenda than Trump does, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t have the same effect on the people of this country,” Ramaswamy said when asked by ABC News about his comments on donald trump makes up 30% of the country”[lose] his mental faculties.”

“My view is that the people of this country who care about advancing these values ​​will vote for me because they believe I will be a better vehicle to achieve that,” he said.


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