GOP debate fireworks: Why Vivek Ramaswamy took aim at RNC chair Ronna McDaniel

A Republican presidential candidate fired personal insults against the chair of his own party in one of the most bizarre moments of the combustible Republican presidential debate Wednesday.

Vivek Ramaswamy, the multi-millionaire biotech entrepreneur and first-time candidate who’s been one of the biggest surprises during the 2024 election cycle, once again targeted former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been rising in GOP primary polls for several months.

But at the start of the third debate, Ramaswamy took aim at someone who wasn’t even on the stage — Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

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Speaking the night after the GOP suffered a slew of setbacks in the 2023 off-year elections, Ramaswamy unloaded on McDaniel, who minutes earlier had taken to the stage to address the audience in the debate pre-show.

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Ramaswamy — who has highlighted “outsider” credentials since launching his presidential campaign in February — argued the GOP has become “a party of losers” and said there’s a “cancer” in the Republican establishment.

“Since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022, [the] red wave that never came. We got trounced last night in 2023,” Ramaswamy said. 

He urged that “we have to have accountability in our party. For that matter, Ronna, if you want to come on stage tonight, you want to look the GOP voters in the eye and tell them you resign, I will yield my time to you.”

Asked about the attack, McDaniel said in the spin room after the debate that “I’m not running for anything. So let’s focus on Joe Biden and beating the Democrats. That’s what I’m going to do.”

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McDaniel was picked by former President Donald Trump soon after his 2016 White House victory to steer the national party committee. She was re-elected in 2019, 2021, and again in January, when she announced that this would be her final two-year term leading the RNC.

On Wednesday after the debate, Fox News Digital asked McDaniel about the much-discussed debate moment from Ramaswamy.

“Everybody’s gotta get headlines, right?” she answered. “I am very proud of the RNC and our staff and the work that we’ve done to win back the House. Remember, I am the person who was chair of Michigan who flipped that state for the first time in 30 years. And I’m going to continue working hard on beating the Democrats, and I’m not going to attack other Republicans. That’s just a fact.”

Ramaswamy told Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie after the debate that “I don’t have a personal problem with Ronna.”

But he reiterated that “I have a problem with a party that repeatedly loses its elections. . . . And I do think that it’s a party that’s a little bit out of touch with its base.”

That’s a view shared by some on the far right side of the party — and some in MAGA world.

Among those weighing in was Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA and a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump — the commanding front-runner for the GOP nomination — who posted on social media a video of Ramaswamy’s debate attack on McDaniel.

Kirk, a vocal critic of the RNC chair, wrote: “When an NFL team keeps losing games, the coach gets fired. So why does the RNC keep going to war led by the same losers who failed last time?”

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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