Vivek Ramswamy told reporters before Wednesday’s GOP debate that his plan was to be “unhinged.”
He did not disappoint.
It only took the first question of the debate for him to call Republicans the “party of losers.” Later on, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was calling him “scum” after he brought up her daughter’s use of TikTok, the video-sharing app.
Ramaswamy, a biotechnology entrepreneur, has gotten himself to the debate stage alongside politicians with much longer resumes in part through his willingness to attack establishment Republicans. He showcased that skill, if you want to call it that, again on Wednesday when he not only criticized Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel at an event hosted by the RNC, but called on her to join him on stage in order to explain the GOP’s recent losses.
That was in Ramaswamy’s first response to a question, a lengthy answer during which he also attempted to interrogate NBC News journalist and moderator Kristen Welker over her coverage of investigations into former President Donald Trump. Welker did not engage.
But it is also less clear that Ramaswamy’s bomb-throwing approach has helped him in the polls, particularly as his standing has stalled in the past few months after a summer surge.
And it certainly has not endeared him to his fellow GOP candidates.
Ramaswamy was once again at the center of conflict on Wednesday. He went after Haley — and seemingly also Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — as part of a broader attack on the “neocon” establishment, asking the audience if they “want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels.”
“We’ve got two of them on stage tonight,” he added, a dig at rumors that DeSantis wears shoes equipped with heel lifts to make him appear taller.
Haley shot back a few minutes later, saying she can run in her “five-inch” heels that also serve as ammunition.
Ramaswamy’s earlier attacks on the moderators may not have helped him a few minutes later, as they declined him the opportunity to respond after Haley criticized him on Ukraine policy. The debate rules on Wednesday gave moderators discretion to determine when mentioned candidates got the chance to respond.
But the clash between the pair continued as the questions turned to China. Ramaswamy was questioned over his use of the app TikTok, which his campaign joined in late September. Republicans and some Democrats have argued TikTok poses national security concerns due to its links to the Chinese government, and Haley had criticized Ramaswamy’s use of the app.
“Her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time,” Ramaswamy said at the outset of his response. “So you might want to take care of your family.”
Haley, speaking over DeSantis who was situated between the two on stage, turned right to Ramaswamy as she responded: “You’re just scum.”
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