Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who has surged as high as third in some Republican presidential polls, sat down with Scripps News for a wide-ranging interview that hit on his past business dealings, the upcoming Republican debate, and his own struggles being politically engaged in his youth.
On not voting until the 2020 election
Ramaswamy, who has proposed increasing barriers for 18 to 25-year-olds to vote, said he did not cast a ballot until the 2020 election.
"Something changed for me when I became a father in 2020. That's when my first son was born. It just changed my perspective to say that I'm not just going to passively sit aside just because I'm not excited by other candidates," Ramaswamy said.
The 37-year-old said he "absolutely" wished he had been more engaged in politics in his twenties, but no political candidates excited him.
Ramaswamy has proposed new requirements for Americans ages 18 to 25 to vote. They can either perform some type of service for six months, such as military service, or pass a citizenship test.
"I think every 18-year-old should have to pass the same test that an immigrant has to pass in order to become a citizen in this country," he said. "If I had been asked to pass that test, absolutely, I would have done it. And absolutely, I would have voted."
The idea would require a constitutional amendment to become a reality.
On business dealings overseas
The entrepreneur made his fortune in the biotechnology industry, founding Roivant Sciences in 2014. The company, which encompassed Axovant, then the highest biotech IPO of its time, is incorporated in Bermuda.
"The U.S. tax code is so darn broken that that's what you ultimately have to do to be able to maximize value for shareholders," Ramaswamy said.
"What I would prioritize as U.S. president is making sure we have a rational tax code in this country, a 12% flat tax across the board," he added when asked if, as president, he would work to prevent companies from going overseas because of taxes.
On Trump and the first GOP debate
Ramaswamy attributed his steady rise in the polls to a more positive vision for the country than many of his competitors running for the White House.
"I think one of the things that distinguishes me from much of the field, in either party in this campaign, is that we're actually offering a vision of our own," he said. "A lot of other candidates are anti-something, fill in the blank, anti ‘X.’ I'm not anti-something. I'm pro-American."
One of the early tests of the primary campaign will be the first Republican debate on August 23. To make the debate stage, candidates will need to hit certain polling thresholds, have at least 40,000 unique donors, and sign a pledge vowing to support the eventual nominee.
Ramaswamy says he is planning to be on the debate stage but has no concerns if frontrunner Donald Trump opts to skip the event in Milwaukee.
"I don't really think it much matters in the early debates whether he shows up. I expect that by the end of this process, though, he and I will be on that debate stage together," Ramaswamy said.
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