Indian Americans react to Vivek Ramaswamy dropping out and Nikki Haley’s third place result

Ritu Jha–

It was not an easy evening in Iowa if you were an Indian American that supports the Republicans. Biotech multimillionaire Vivek Ramaswamy, 38, who was touted as a frontrunner in 2023 to challenge former President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, dropped out of the race after a lukewarm No 4 showing at the Iowa Republican caucuses on Monday. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, whose poll numbers showed a sharp rise in the last month would have been only disappointed with a third place result.

The overwhelming winner was, of course, Trump, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a distant second. The former President won 51% of the vote, while DeSantis could manage only 21.2% and Haley 19.1%. Ramaswamy came fourth with less than 8% of the votes. Trump took away 20 bound delegates, while DeSantis and Haley took 8 and 7 respectively. Ramaswamy took 4, but that will be inconsequential.

“If Nikki had reached out to Indian Americans, she would have beaten Trump,” Prakash Kopparapu, chairman, Indo-American PAC-IA, told indica while speaking about the former U.N. ambassador’s third-place result. 

In a previous interview, Kopparapu had told indica that Iowa’s Indian American community would be voting for Ramaswamy. “Most of Vivek’s voters are Indian Americans, and out of 22,000 I was hoping that about 12,000 would show up, but the turnout was super low.”

He believes bad weather was one of the reasons people did not turn up. “The turnout is super low because of the temperature and poor road conditions. If Nikki had reached out to Indian Americans, she would have beat Trump.”

He added, “Though Ramaswamy has dropped out of the presidential race after coming fourth, he did a good job despite hurdles like not getting election staff until late October. He is not a politician and this was his first time. You need to have discipline to be part of a presidential race and his campaign management was not up to the mark until October. I am sure he will make a comeback.”

Kopparapu said Ramaswamy connected with the voters and that “he definitely has the momentum.” He said Ro Khanna could be an Indian American hope in 2028, and “it would be nice to see two Indian Americans in the presidential race. It would be more interesting in 2028 when Ro Khanna would inherit the supporters of Barnie Sanders, while and Vivek would inherit Trump’s people.”

Amit Desai (R) with Vivek Ramaswamy (C)

Dr. Amit Desai, a founding director at United States-India Relationship Council (USIRC) told indica that they have been associated with Ramaswamy since March 2023. Desai and his team raised $51,000 for Ramaswamy, was sad to learn that he dropped out. “We supported him fully. However, this is politics, and we hope he comes back.” 

Desai said Ohio-born Harvard-educated technocrat worked really hard on his campaign. “He wanted to bring change. He ran an aggressive campaign. We hope that if Trump wins, he might join his team. Trump’s victory is a possibility and he needs a good team,” said Desai. “USIRC is a bipartisan PAC and supports the candidates who support India. We are looking for our community’s interest like any other community. We formed the PAC on July 4, 2021.”

Asked Desai if the PAC decided to support Ramaswamy (38) because the community lost trust in Trump, given his court cases, he said, “Vivek talks like former President Trump and that’s what the country needs. That’s the reason we thought of supporting him, and also because in him we saw fresh blood who has a similar thought process.”

Desai said the PAC is as yet undecided on whether to support Trump or Haley here onwards. “Vivek was pro-India and like Trump, he was also of the view that if you want to have peace on this planet US and India have to work together,” Desai said.

He said “Vivek did everything possible any candidate can do. He spent maximum time in Iowa but ultimately, what people chose you have to abide by that.”

Was age a factor? “Age is not a factor, because when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was only 33, before he became the president. I think somewhere deep the states are working hard to eliminate people like Vivek and Trump. Also, there are incidents where pastors have been reportedly telling their congregations not to vote for a Hindu. If that is the case, then being a Hindu might be a factor as well.”

Desai said he agreed with Ramaswamy’s endorsement of Trump. “During his term in office, Trump not only improved the economy but he was the first president who did not go to war and let the soldiers die.”

Preity Upala, Republican and a political strategist and director of The OMNIA Institute, told indica, “Trump still has the trust of his supporters and has even picked up several independents and undecided voters. His 2024 campaign
has been one that has focused on order and stability. Biden has less than 40 percent approval rate and 80 percent of all Americans feel the
country is not going in the right direction. People are looking for leadership and a government that can give them hope for a better future.”

She said, “Indian American representation in US politics is soaring. Two of the GOP front runners — Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley — are of Indian origin and both speak highly of their Indian heritage. In the case of Ramaswamy, he credits his Hindu faith as giving him the values and fortitude to fight for the country. Vivek may have dropped out of the race, but he has endorsed Trump, and he will no doubt be hoping to get a cabinet position.”

Upala added, “Nikki Haley has New Hampshire and her state of South Carolina to look forward to – the future of her campaign will depend on the results of these primaries. The second place is up for grabs and she looks more likely to be the GOP’s preferred establishment candidate. By March we will know who the GOP nominee will be,” Upala added.

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