COLUMBUS, Ohio – Vivek Ramaswamy says he didn’t start paying attention to politics until four years ago, when cultural issues caught his eye.

What You Need To Know

  • Vivek Ramaswamy, an Ohio entrepreneur who became a conservative culture warrior in the last four years, is running a long-shot bid for president

  • Ramaswamy, who is 37 and worth over $500 million, has already invested $10 million into his campaign and says “that’s just the start”

  • He’s hoping to attract Donald Trump supporters who are hungry for a fresh face
  • Spectrum News conducted a wide-ranging interview with Ramaswamy last week in his Columbus campaign headquarters 

He backed Donald Trump in 2020, but didn’t even vote in 2016.

“Yeah, I was head deep in my biotech company. It's a different phase of my life,” Ramaswamy told Spectrum News last week. “I was out of politics back then. I was an apolitical guy developing drugs.”

Now, the 37-year-old former biotech CEO-turned-culture warrior is running a long-shot bid for president.

A multimillionaire with “no limit” on self-funding

Developing drugs helped Ramaswamy to earn more than half a billion dollars by his early 30s.

The Cincinnati native is drawing on some of that fortune to bankroll his campaign for president, running as a Republican against Trump. 

During a wide-ranging interview in his campaign headquarters in Columbus, Ramaswamy discussed his willingness to tap into his wealth for the race in hopes of attracting Trump supporters who are hungry for a fresh face.

“There's really no limit on what we put into this campaign,” he said. “I've already invested $10 million, or a little bit more than that, in this campaign already. That's just the start.”

Ramaswamy’s campaign office is in a flashy, expansive building in the Columbus suburbs that’s outfitted with two TV studios. He has already hired several dozen staffers.

His campaign churns out a seemingly endless stream of catchy social media videos and recently launched a podcast that features stars of the conservative movement. 

In one of the first episodes, former Trump Attorney General Bill Bar sits across from Ramaswamy in one of the studios while they discuss the justice system in America.

“The [James] Comey episode and Russiagate gave people the impression that the FBI was rotting from the head,” Barr says.

Would Ramaswamy be running for president if he was not wealthy?

“I would certainly want to be able to do it,” he told Spectrum News. “But it’s hard to separate that because part of what’s allowed me to generate wealth is the fact that I’ve been so unafraid in tackling bureaucracies.”

A CEO-turned-culture warrior from Cincinnati

Ramaswamy was raised in Cincinnati by immigrant parents from Southern India.

He was a high school valedictorian, graduated from Harvard, and earned a law degree from Yale.

After working for a hedge fund in New York, Ramaswamy launched a biotech company called Roivant Sciences that resurrected drugs stalled by other firms. The company grew rapidly after a Forbes Magazine cover story, helping him build a net worth of over $500 million. 

But two years ago, Ramaswamy stepped down to become a full-time culture warrier. He primarily rails against what he calls “wokeism,” especially companies that focus on social issues like climate change.

Ramaswamy became a familiar face on Fox News and churned out op-eds and two books, including, “Woke, Inc. Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam.”

He started an asset management firm that supports companies focused on financial growth, not environmental or social issues. 

This past February, he launched his presidential campaign on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

“If I was building a political career, I'd be doing something else other than running for president – Congress or Senate or whatever,” Ramaswamy told Spectrum News. “But this isn't about my political career. This is about filling a national vacuum.”

A campaign focused on culture issues

So far, his campaign has focused on just about every culture issue on the far right’s grievance list.

“Our police state is corrupt, but we need someone to actually solve it,” Ramaswamy declared in a recent video posted to his Twitter account.

As part of his campaign platform, he says he would shut down and replace the FBI, the IRS, and the Department of Education. He’s also pledging to end affirmative action and to use the military to secure the southern border.

If elected, Ramaswamy is also promising to pardon non-violent Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He also has said he would try to pardon Trump for the felony indictment the former president now faces in New York, although Ramaswamy likely would not be able to do that as president because those are state charges.

“We have a legal team, including a law policy team, that works very carefully on the authority to get these things done,” Ramaswamy said. “Yes, the answer is, I believe I have an opportunity to deliver with my own first personal legal and constitutional conviction.”

He calls himself an America First conservative, but thinks it’s time for the movement Trump created to be passed on to a new leader.

“I think that of the other candidates in this race, he is the outsider. And I would bet on him over any of the other candidates in this Republican field,” Ramaswamy said. “But I'm running because I want to take that America First agenda to the next level.”

He said Trump has made the Republican Party more receptive to outsiders like himself. 

So far, he’s received small dollar donations from over 15,000 people across the country, an effort to build a base of grassroots support that he hopes will allow him to qualify for primary debates.

But win or lose, Ramaswamy’s campaign already has succeeded in helping to raise his profile and spread his anti-woke message to a wider audience.

“For my entire career, I've built success by being unafraid in challenging orthodoxies, in taking on bureaucracies that you weren't supposed to challenge or touch,” he said.