Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy was the breakout star of the first GOP debate on Wednesday.
He mocked candidates, boosting his name recognition, but also hurting his palatability to voters.
It's a costly gamble that could ultimately backfire.
Political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy may have been the breakout star at Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate, but his bombastic approach could come back to bite him, according to post-debate polling.
According to a series of polls taken by the Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos in the lead up to the first Republican presidential debate, 13% of Republican primary voters had an "unfavorable" view of Ramaswamy before he took the stage. After the debate, the poll found, 26% of potential primary voters who watched the debate rated Ramaswamy the winner, behind only DeSantis.
But it wasn't all good news: That "unfavorable" number more than doubled to 32%, according to the same polling group.
Throughout the debate, Ramaswamy jumped in as often as he could, seizing the second-largest portion of speaking time, according to the New York Times.
In addition to discussing his policy plans, Ramaswamy used much of that time to directly attack the candidates around him for their experience and records in office: He said former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was auditioning for an MSNBC contributor position, told former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley her future was in defense contracting instead of the White House, and mocked former Vice President Mike Pence about his age.
The other candidates, however, didn't let Ramaswamy simply get away with his repeated attacks on the debate stage. Instead, they singled him out over his lack of political experience and radical foreign policy ideas and compared him to a human version of ChatGPT.
This shows why his strategy was a dangerous gamble — by obsequiously siding with Trump, promising to pardon him if elected, and repeating his talking points, Ramaswamy was able to attract attention and earn a declaration from the former president on social media that he was the winner.
But he also made himself a target of every single candidate on stage other than the one charged with 91 felony counts, and they were able to move a good deal of potential voters into the unfavorable camp.
Of course, Ramaswamy may only be looking for one vote: That of the likely GOP nominee, Donald Trump. But while Democratic President Joe Biden did indeed pick Kamala Harris as his vice president after she made a coordinated effort to attack him over his record on race, and Trump previously said he planned to watch the debate to get a sense of who he wants as a potential running mate, Ramaswamy has no guarantee that his loyalty will actually lead to a position in a hypothetical new Trump Administration in 2024.
No vice-presidential spot or cabinet seat is ever safe until it's offered and accepted — just ask former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang about the cushy federal gig he was appointed to within the Biden Administration after he stepped out of the race and endorsed him (hint: it never happened).
With this in mind, Ramaswamy's surging "unfavorable" rating among voters suddenly becomes even more dire: If Republican voters increasingly find his schtick unpalatable and he burns all of his bridges within the GOP at the debate other than Trump, he risks getting this far for virtually nothing but name recognition.
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