DES MOINES, Iowa — Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the 2024 presidential race Monday night after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses and endorsed former President Donald Trump.
Ramaswamy finished fourth in Iowa, NBC News projects, coming in well behind Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Ramaswamy had 8% of the GOP caucus vote with more than 90% of precincts reporting late Monday night.
Ramaswamy said he called Trump to congratulate him on his victory and would attend a rally with him in New Hampshire on Tuesday.
"There needs to be an America First candidate in this race,” Ramaswamy said. "Going forward, he will have my full endorsement for the presidency."
The 38-year-old entrepreneur was not well known when he entered the race in February 2023, in his first run for political office. But he quickly broke through with Republican voters in a campaign that aligned with Trump in both tone and policy substance, as he positioned himself as an heir to the MAGA movement.
But his campaign was unable to pull much support away from Trump, who retained the loyalty of Republican voters despite Ramaswamy’s efforts to convince them that he’d be better able to push the “America First” agenda he and Trump both championed. And he was unable to turn out the wave of first-time caucusgoers he often said were poised to boost him in Iowa.
As the campaign got closer to caucus day, Ramaswamy’s rhetoric took on an increasingly conspiratorial bent, imploring supporters to “wake up” and speaking of plots and forces working to shape the election. His pitch to Trump fans was convoluted: He told supporters not to “waste” their votes on Trump because “they” would not “let him anywhere near the White House,” citing the criminal cases against the former president and the battles to keep him off the ballot on 14th Amendment grounds in Colorado and Maine.
But, three days before the Iowa caucuses, Trump took direct aim at Ramaswamy for calling him “wounded.” In a post on Truth Social, Trump said: “Vivek started his campaign as a great supporter, 'the best President in generations,' etc. Unfortunately now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks.”
Ramaswamy campaigned on taking Trump’s policies even further as president. He pledged to shut down government agencies including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Education and to massively shrink the number of federal workers. He vowed to use the United States military to secure the southern and northern borders.
And he proposed ending birthright citizenship for American-born children of undocumented immigrants, arguing that the 14th Amendment — which states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” — was not designed to apply to them.
Ramaswamy also set himself up as an antagonist to the other candidates in the Republican presidential debates — especially former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Ramaswamy and Haley sparred repeatedly at debates, and Ramaswamy repeatedly claimed toward the end of his campaign that she was a “puppet” for the “deep state.”
But he hewed closer to Trump, so much so that many people at Ramaswamy’s events urged him to push for the vice presidential slot on Trump's ticket if it was offered to him. Ramaswamy would say in response that he’s “not a Plan B” person.
Ramaswamy poured millions of dollars of his own money into the campaign and held the most public events out of all of his GOP rivals, including over 300 in Iowa, hitting all 99 counties in the Hawkeye State twice. He moved his campaign staff to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire as a last-ditch primary effort in November.