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Vivek Ramaswamy turns his fire on the GOP’s early-state governors

Vivek Ramaswamy turns his fire on the GOP’s early-state governors



CLARION, Iowa — Vivek Ramaswamy has a novel strategy as he competes for the GOP presidential nomination: attacking the popular Republican governors in the first two states to vote.

He has criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during multiple campaign stops across the Hawkeye State this week, connecting her to fears about the potential use of eminent domain to install privately owned carbon dioxide pipelines. 

The issue of the carbon capture pipelines — and the potential use of eminent domain, which allows the government to seize private property for public projects — has become a regular issue for Ramaswamy on the trail. The plans have stoked anxiety among Iowa farmers who could see one of the controversial pipelines buried beneath their lands. 

Ramaswamy’s public denouncement of Reynolds also continues his criticism of key establishment figures in early-voting states, after the businessman trashed New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu earlier this month, describing him as “the face of the establishment.”

One common thread: neither governor was going to be supporting Ramaswamy. Reynolds already endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, while Sununu has been critical of Ramaswamy’s statements in debates and on the campaign trail.

Ramaswamy is also using the criticism of the governors, and specifically of the pipeline issue in Iowa, to draw a contrast between himself and his GOP presidential rivals. He suggested that other candidates’ relative silence on the matter is a result of them being “bought and paid for.”

“Every other Republican candidate, even those that’ll bluster and offer a big scene about trying to act big, bold and anti-establishment, not one of them has brought up the carbon capture pipeline that’s affecting farmers right here at home. And you want to know why?” Ramaswamy asked a gathering of reporters after a campaign stop in Clarion on Tuesday. 

“It’s because the governor — and you’re not supposed to criticize Kim Reynolds — is principally responsible for signing that eminent domain into law,” he continued.

With less than two months until the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses, Ramaswamy’s decision to deride Reynolds is a gamble as he goes all-in on the first-in-the-nation nominating contest. More Iowa Republicans viewed Reynolds favorably — 81% — than any of the presidential candidates in an August NBC/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll. (When the poll last tested Ramaswamy’s image, in late October, he was seen favorably by 43% of Iowa Republicans — but unfavorably by 37%.)

But if there is an issue to confront Reynolds that might resonate with Iowa Republicans, it could be her relative silence on eminent domain, which strikes a personal chord with many Iowa farmers. And after painting the science behind carbon capture and sequestration as dubious, Ramaswamy accused Reynolds and other state Republicans of not protecting landowners’ rights. 

“Your governor and the Republican establishment in this state stands effectively in favor of eminent domain for the farmers who refuse to give up that land,” he said at a campaign stop in Boone, Iowa. 

At a September campaign event for several GOP presidential candidates in the city of Nevada, Iowa, Reynolds faced a flurry of pipeline protesters in attendance during her speech, although they did not interrupt her.

Members of the crowd lifted signs that said “no deadly carbon pipelines” when Reynolds took to the stage.

Marvin Johnson, a retired agronomy salesman from Kanawha, Iowa, was one of those protesters. The 74-year-old says he lives just a couple of miles away from a proposed pipeline and is disgruntled with Reynolds’ reluctance to address the issue. 

“I love Gov. Reynolds. I love 90% of what she does. But on the carbon pipeline, she hasn’t stood up for the landowners around Iowa,” he said.  

Ramaswamy’s prior war of words with Sununu in Iowa was more personal and less based on policy.

Asked about the possibility of an endorsement from Sununu for his campaign, Ramaswamy described it as the “kiss of death to whichever candidate gets it, and so I will be dodging that.”

That came after Sununu went on CNN following the third Republican debate and argued that Ramaswamy’s performance, which included attacking Nikki Haley’s daughter, “proved last night that he doesn’t have the temperament to handle the stresses of a public executive position.”

Ramaswamy, who is also attacking Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, appears to be betting that the GOP electorate is craving an anti-establishment outsider, and that lines up with a party that nominated Donald Trump in 2016 and places the former president far ahead in the polls this cycle. But whether there’s enough room for Ramaswamy with Trump still in the picture remains to be seen.



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