QUAY: Vivek Killed It At The Iowa Summit. Here’s What His Next Move Should Be

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Grayson Quay News & Opinion Editor
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After Friday’s Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, entrepreneur and anti-woke author Vivek Ramaswamy still probably won’t end up in the White House. But he’s become the man to watch in the Republican presidential primary race.

Ramaswamy’s delivery is crisp, his biography compelling, his policies broadly popular and his outsider credentials unmatched, even by former President Donald Trump. He had a strong rapport with host and Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson, displaying some of the charm of 2007 Obama and largely shedding the excessive polish that hampered his earlier interviews. 

He gave an answer on Ukraine that threw red meat to the nationalists while also coming across as learned and statesmanlike. He threaded the needle brilliantly on Jan. 6. He spoke movingly of his interactions with inner-city voters, proving that it’s possible to play the unifier and the fighter simultaneously. And he had one of the best soundbites of the day:

“I did have privilege. I didn’t grow up in money, but I had two parents in the house, a mother and a father, with a focus on education and a faith in God,” he said. “And you know what? That is the ultimate privilege. That if I’m gonna enjoy that, every kid in this country ought to enjoy it too.” (RELATED: Vivek Ramaswamy Explains How He’d Shut Down The FBI Without Congressional Permission)

Ramaswamy has even turned what could have been his greatest weakness, namely his Hinduism, into an asset, talking about God more than the devout evangelical South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott does, while never giving the impression that he’s too nice to throw down with the Deep State. 

He has former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s child-of-immigrants appeal without the baggage of a political career and a stint on the Boeing board. He’s bursting with new ideas while former Vice President Mike Pence repeats old Reaganite platitudes. And he’s truly magnetic, while so far Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be more like the opposite side of the magnet — the side that pushes stuff away instead of drawing it in.

There hasn’t been new polling since the Iowa summit, but there are already indications that Vivek is gaining some Ramaswamomentum. The PredictIt odds, which assign each candidate a number equal to the number of cents you’d have to wager to win a dollar, have Trump at 60, DeSantis at 19 and Vivek at 12 at the time of this writing. This makes Ramaswamy far more DeSantis’ rival than DeSantis is Trump’s.

In April, Charles C.W. Cooke of National Review called Ramaswamy Trump’s “valet” and said he wasn’t “really running for president.” I wonder if he’d say the same after Friday.

It’s possible that Ramaswamy will drop out after Super Tuesday with a handful of delegates to his name and parachute into a comfortable career as an anti-woke pundit. But I think he has more to offer.

I’m going to throw some dates at you here, so stay with me.

Aug. 23, 2023: First Republican primary debate (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Sept. 2023: Second Republican primary debate (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California)

Oct. 2023: Third Republican primary debate (somewhere in Alabama)

Dec. 20, 2023: Filing deadline for the Ohio primaries

Jan. 15, 2024: Republican Iowa caucus

March 5, 2024: Super Tuesday

March 19, 2024: Ohio primaries

See what I’m getting at?

So far, there are three candidates in the Ohio Senate race: businessman Bernie Moreno, state Sen. Matt Dolan and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. So far, none has distinguished himself in the polls, but Moreno has already netted Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance’s endorsement. Conventional wisdom suggests that he’ll also pick up Trump’s and then coast to victory in the primary. (RELATED: Vivek Ramaswamy Unveils List Of Potential Supreme Court Picks — Including Ted Cruz, Mike Lee)

But what if Trump holds off on making an endorsement?

The former president has already signaled that he plans to skip the GOP primary debates. He seems content to run a Rose Garden campaign from Mar-a-Lago, and it keeps working, so you can’t exactly blame him. This sets up a scenario in which DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Pence, Haley and Scott are forced to fight it out on stage for second place. 

If that’s the case, it’s easy to see Ramaswamy being the biggest beneficiary of these debates. The candidate certainly thinks so. When I interviewed him back in April, Ramaswamy told me directly that his path to victory runs through the debate stage. Can he overtake Trump? Almost certainly not. Can he catch DeSantis? Maybe. But even if he doesn’t, he could catch the eye of DeSantis donors who are casting desperately about for an alternate Trump alternative as the Florida governor continues to underperform.

Let’s say that by the beginning of December, Trump’s still at 50 percent; DeSantis has slipped to 17; Vivek has jumped up to 15; and Pence, Haley and Scott are all stuck at four or five.

Ramaswamy calls a press conference and explains that while he could stick it out through Super Tuesday, the people have made it clear that they want Trump as their nominee. It would be unfair to his donors to stay in the race without a realistic chance of winning.

And so (he continues), he’s dropping out of the race, endorsing Trump and declaring his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Within the hour, Trump posts on Truth Social endorsing Ramaswamy, who immediately becomes the frontrunner. 

Ramaswamy lacks Vance’s rags-to-MAGA story, but he was born and raised in Ohio and still appears to live there. He’s also called repeatedly for all-out war with the cartels, a position that would certainly play well in the fentanyl-stricken Rust Belt state. 

Whether he can defeat Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown will depend on the national environment. It’s worth noting, however, that Brown won his first two terms in 2006 and 2012, when Ohio was still a swing state, and his third in 2018, a bad year for Republicans. Last time he ran in a presidential election year, he improved on Barack Obama’s three-point margin of victory by another three percent (against then-Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who’s a bit of a weirdo). 

It’s also worth noting that, in both 2016 and 2020, Trump won Ohio by eight points. This means that if Ohio stays as red as it’s been in the last two elections, Brown could outperform the top of the Democratic ticket by double his 2012 margin and still be two points short. No wonder Roll Call ranks him as one of the most vulnerable senators.

With Ramaswamy in the Senate, Ohio would boast two of the most dynamic, up-and-coming members of the upper chamber. Both would be well positioned for cabinet positions in future GOP administrations or for presidential runs of their own in 2028. 

Between 1869 and 1923, six out of 11 U.S. presidents hailed from Ohio, all of them Republicans. Ramaswamy almost certainly won’t be elected president in 2024. But together, he and Vance could form the beginning of a new Buckeye dynasty.

Grayson Quay is an editor at the Daily Caller.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.