GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy talks need for fresh leadership, Iowa caucuses

Three days before the Iowa caucuses, most polls are showing GOP presidential candidate and political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy in single digits, despite the extraordinary effort he made to visit each of the state’s 99 counties twice, a feat known as the “Double Full Grassley.”

Former President Donald Trump currently holds a double-digit lead in the state, and trailing him are former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Ramaswamy, though many voters CBS News has spoken with see the Ohio entrepreneur as their second choice to Trump.

Ramaswamy believes “the polls are drastically off,” he told “CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokoupil.

“I think we have a good shot at winning the Iowa caucus,” he said.

But his pitch depends on convincing Trump supporters that he’s essentially a newer, better version of the former president. 

“I think we need somebody with fresh legs, somebody who can reach and lead the next generation of Americans. In many cases, I’m going far further than Donald Trump,” he said.

Ramaswamy has leaned into conspiracy theories that resonate with a fringe element of the Republican Party during his campaign, suggesting the Jan. 6, 2021, riot was an “inside job” and raising questions about the 9/11 attacks. He has also expressed doubts about the thwarted kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Recently, he floated the idea that political elites plan to replace President Biden as the Democratic nominee.

One of Ramaswamy’s other controversial proposals includes firing 75% of the “federal bureaucrats,” a move he believes is essential to “drain the swamp.” Despite legal protections that prevent the termination of civil servants without due process, he insists his approach would not violate these laws.  

“Those civil service protections only protect against individual employee firings. They do not apply to mass firings, mass layoffs. And mass firings are absolutely what I’m bringing to the D.C. bureaucracy,” he said. Such a mass firing could mean terminating about 2.2 million of the nation’s nearly 3 million federal employees

Ramaswamy said tough measures on immigration, including the closure of the southern border and aggressive action against Mexican drug cartels, are needed.

“If the military is stationed, and I’ve been precise, at the border facing outward, that absolutely is within the purview of the military facing an outward foreign threat,” Ramaswamy said.

Ramaswamy’s policy proposals would be likely to face challenges in Congress and could be subject to legal scrutiny. When asked about his potential success rate, he said he’d achieve 100% of his executive agenda.

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