AMES, Iowa — In the basement of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at Iowa State University, Vivek Ramaswamy addressed a crowd of about 50 young men and one young woman last Thursday. often attracted more men than women took the atmosphere of a literal brother’s house for a night.
The fraternity brothers peppered Ramaswamy with questions about cryptocurrency, hazing on campus and crime on the streets of Chicago, before emeritus brother Ramaswamy himself asked them questions.
“Do you have any suggestions for us and our team to get a bunch of college students to come out for, say, Martin Luther King Day evening here in Iowa?” Ramaswamy asked as he sought ideas to attract young voters to the Jan. 15 caucuses. “I’ve seen a few party buses on the road here,” he said. “I’m open to any ideas.”
Ramaswamy insists he has inspired a wave of first-time conventioneers who will deliver a surprise run next week, bowing out of public opinion polls that show him struggling in the single digits in Iowa. And it certainly draws a number of young men to events around the state, though high-minded civic engagement isn’t the only reason they attend.
Throughout his campaign, Ramaswamy has been hosting events on college campuses touting campaign laws such as “Free Speech and Free Drinks,” where the multimillionaire is trying to persuade students to caucus in exchange for attention. first time. Iowa residents, including out-of-state college students, who are eligible to vote in the 2024 election are eligible to caucus.
These events attract a predominantly male crowd – and an exceptionally rowdy atmosphere.
At one of the University of Iowa’s Free Speech and Free Drinks events in October, middle-aged and elderly Iowans sat outside a town hall genuinely interested in what Ramaswamy had to say. In the back, toward the bar, young Iowans are looking for drinks and getting rowdy.
Ramaswamy dived into a long story about the marriage between corporate America and the left, resulting in an “awakening.” Then Ramaswamy introduced a new character to his story.
“Then a new party came on the scene and turned this arranged marriage into a three-way relationship,” Ramaswamy said, prompting a college student to chant “Three ways!”
The crowd laughed. Ramaswamy continued. “This is the Chinese Communist Party,” he said, trying to make a serious point about his political philosophy to a rowdy, boozy crowd.
The weekend before Halloween, Ramaswamy held another “Free Speech and Free Drinks” event at Iowa State University, where drunken college students, mostly men dressed in all manner of Halloween costumes, drank on Ramaswamy’s dime. As he took the stage, a group of young people in the crowd greeted him with “F— Joe Biden” chants.
One of the problems with catering to an audience of free booze is that when Ramaswamy started speaking, the noisy bar refused to be quiet, largely drowning out Ramaswamy’s words, resulting in a 21-minute town hall. the events that happened on his path.
The audience for “Free Speech” tends to be more male than some of the other Ramaswamy events, and there are some. voting evidence shows that men and women make more leaps than women. In December, an NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll found that 50 percent of Iowa Republican candidates had a favorable opinion of Ramaswamy, compared to 39 percent of Republican women.
Many in the chaotic Halloween weekend crowd told NBC News they had no idea who Ramaswamy was. They were just there to pre-game the rest of the night. Although several young people were excited by Ramaswamy’s presence, they were not necessarily going to caucuses for him.
Ryan Jaskowski, 21, is an Iowa State student from Yorkville, Illinois. Jaskowski, who is eligible for the Iowa caucus, plans to endorse former President Donald Trump.
“If Trump gets away with all these charges, I will go with Trump,” he said, adding, “I would like to see Vivek as vice president.”
As for why Yaskowski attended the open bar event, the answer was twofold: “I want to try to show up when it’s a friend’s birthday and there’s a rich politician in town.”
Aidan Olsen, a 22-year-old Iowa State student from Jasko, Minnesota, came for drinks with a friend who learned about Ramaswamy’s candidacy through former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. Olsen said she’s never been overly politically active and is “voting Kanye” in 2020.
At his fraternity house in December, Ramaswamy admitted to NBC News that he had attracted a mostly male crowd. “A lot of young people in particular are very passionate about this campaign,” Ramaswamy said after the basement town hall. “But I don’t think there’s anything inherently gender-specific about the message.”
Hayden Payne, 20, a Phi Gamma Delta member from Bluffs, Iowa, said most of her male friends on campus at Iowa State are conservative and most of her female friends are liberal.
“With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, I feel like it’s really divided the country on this important argument,” Payne said.
“Many girls will clearly side with the liberal agenda debate on abortion, and the Republican agenda is anti-abortion,” she said.