Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recounted deeply personal experiences of their wives’ miscarriages during an evangelical Christian forum held in Iowa. The event brought together Ramaswamy, DeSantis, and Nikki Haley, who aimed to connect with the influential evangelical voting bloc in Iowa.
Ramaswamy, visibly moved, shared the untold story of when he and his wife Apoorva discovered they were expecting their first child while she was doing her medical residency in New York City. “About three and a half months in… one day she woke up, she was bleeding. She had a miscarriage. We lost our first child,” Ramaswamy revealed.
DeSantis reflected on his own family’s experience of miscarriage. He recounted a trip to Israel early in his marriage with his wife, Casey, where they prayed for a child. “We go back to the United States, and a little time later, we got pregnant,” said DeSantis. “But unfortunately, we lost that first baby.”
The Family Leader Thanksgiving Family Forum, led by influential Iowa GOP powerbroker Bob Vander Plaats, provided a platform for the candidates to share their personal stories. Vander Plaats posed questions, including the biggest challenges they face in the Iowa caucuses.
Ramaswamy, a Hindu, addressed his faith as he campaigned in the predominantly Christian state. DeSantis faced a more favorable question, focused on the timing of his presidential aspirations and his position as governor of Florida. Haley received a tougher query about her stance on abortion and its alignment with pro-life beliefs.
Evangelical Christians hold significant sway in Iowa politics, with about two-thirds of Republican voters in the 2016 caucuses identifying as evangelicals or born-again Christians. The candidates recognized the importance of connecting with this religious voting bloc.
The event served as an opportunity for Trump’s rivals in the 2024 election to connect with voters and potentially hinder his comeback campaign. The Republican National Committee initially threatened to disqualify candidates who participated in non-RNC sanctioned debates or events. However, an agreement was reached, allowing candidates to attend under strict rules.
While DeSantis, Haley, and Ramaswamy adhered to the forum’s format, tensions simmered between Haley and Ramaswamy prior to the event. However, during the forum itself, they maintained an amicable demeanor. Ramaswamy shared more details about his wife’s miscarriage, including the distressing moment she had a scare while operating on an HIV- and Hepatitis B-positive patient in New York.
Despite the promise of no personal attacks, DeSantis indirectly criticized Trump, expressing his intention to be a disciplined and focused leader. He viewed Trump’s candidacy as risky and lacking in rewards due to possible distractions and poor personnel.
Overall, the Iowa forum provided a platform for candidates to share their personal stories, connect with evangelical voters, and distinguish themselves from other contenders in the 2024 presidential race.