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Two Yale graduates — Florida governor Ron DeSantis ’01 and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy LAW ’13 — are competing to become the Republican nominee in the upcoming American presidential election.  

As of recent Republican national polls, DeSantis is currently polling at 15 percent, while Ramaswamy, founder and former CEO of pharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences, is tracking behind at 8 percent. DeSantis officially declared his bid for the presidency in May on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, during a livestream moderated by X CEO Elon Musk. Ramaswamy kicked off his presidential campaign in February with an announcement on Tucker Carlson Tonight. 

The 2024 presidential election is shrouded in controversy, as former president Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner and the only former American president to face criminal charges, was recently indicted for the fourth time. At the Republican debate on Aug. 23, both DeSantis and Ramaswamy said they would support Trump were he to become the nominee, even if he was also convicted. 

“There is [a possible] opening for someone not named Donald Trump to win the [Republican] nomination,” reporter for the New Republic and political science lecturer Walter Shapiro, set to cover his 12th presidential election, told the News. “DeSantis and Ramaswamy are certainly two of the more likely non-Trump candidates.”

​​DeSantis began his political journey in 2012 when he was elected to represent Florida’s sixth district in the House of Representatives. During his tenure as a congressman, he consistently maintained a conservative record, opposing issues like abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act. In January of 2018, he officially declared his candidacy for Florida governor and went on to secure victory later that same year.

DeSantis received a bachelor’s in history during his time at Yale. On campus, DeSantis excelled as an outfielder for Yale’s varsity baseball team, eventually rising to the position of captain while becoming known as a “man of the people” by his coach. DeSantis went on to attend Harvard Law School.

Ramaswamy, by contrast, went to Harvard as an undergraduate and later attended Yale Law School. He earned the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, a graduate fellowship designed for immigrants and the children of immigrants, which he used to fund his Law School education. After Yale, he founded Roivant Sciences in 2014 and served as its CEO until he stepped down in 2021.

Shapiro told the News that he finds it interesting that both DeSantis and Ramaswamy “do not play up their Yale connections,” drawing a comparison to the 2004 presidential election when Republican nominee George W. Bush ’68 and Democratic nominee John Kerry ’66, actively highlighted their Ivy League pedigrees.

One notable difference between the two Yale graduates is political experience. While DeSantis has been in politics for over a decade, Ramaswamy has never held political office. Ramaswamy revealed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that after casting his vote for a libertarian politician in 2004, he abstained from participating in any elections until 2020, when he voted for Trump.

Despite their connections to Yale, DeSantis and Ramaswamy’s candidacies and policy positions receive mixed reactions on campus. 

“Ramaswamy is an entertaining proxy for Trump on the debate stage and might siphon some MAGA Republican votes to make it a little harder for Donald Trump, but some of his views are so extreme, that they run the risk of making Trump more swallowable for some Republicans,” Yale Law Democrats President Sage A. Mason LAW ’24 wrote to the News.  “As for DeSantis, beyond his egregious and hateful policy positions and actions he’s taken as Governor, his problem is that his lack of charisma is cancerous to his candidacy.”

Mason added that he believes neither DeSantis nor Ramaswamy “should be in positions of power.”

Pranav Pattatathunaduvil ’25 expressed concern with some of Ramaswamy’s foreign policy positions.

“I don’t think Ramaswamy’s foreign policy makes much sense,” Pattatathunaduvil told the News.  “This idea that we should essentially give up Ukraine to Russia so that we can focus on the China threat, thereby allowing a dictator to do as they please and terrorize populations because of our supposed realist interests makes no sense.”

Despite the concerns expressed by students, Shapiro told the News that anything can happen in the election. He said that the combination of President Biden’s age, Trump’s legal challenges and the lingering aftermath of a pandemic, along with the insurrection, has created a landscape of unpredictability.

He explained that while polling suggests that Trump is the clear front-runner, there are still many months to go before people actually vote.  He said that cable TV news rewards this false certainty because it makes for good television.  Shapiro urged people to take the current polls lightly as anything can happen between now and Super Tuesday. 

“We are in such an unprecedented election,” Shapiro said.

In recent presidential election cycles, Yale grads have consistently been contenders in both major political parties. In addition to Republican candidates like DeSantis and Ramaswamy, Yale has produced Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton LAW 73, Senator Cory Booker LAW ’97,  Tom Steyer ’79, Senator Amy Klobuchar ’82 and Senator Michael Bennet LAW ’93.

Alex Bavalsky ’25, who is also a current co-president of the News’ independent editorial board, said the purpose of Yale’s extracurriculars, as well as its liberal arts focus, “certainly prepares” aspiring politicians. 

“The role of Yale is to provide the educational foundation in the liberal arts and sciences for an aspiring politician or anyone [preparing] to serve the American people,” Bavalsky told the News.  

Five U.S. presidents have graduated from Yale.

ADAM WALKER
Adam Walker is the University Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered Yale Law School for the University desk. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is a rising junior in Branford College double majoring in Economics and American Studies.