DES MOINES, Iowa – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy shared emotional stories about their wives who suffered miscarriages during an evangelical Christian forum Friday afternoon in Iowa, as they and rival Nikki Haley shared the stage as they spoke to a key voting bloc in the first caucus state.
“I’ve never actually shared this story before,” Ramaswamy said, his voice shaking slightly as he described the moment he and his wife Apoorva learned their first child was on the way while she was doing her medical residency in New York City. York.
“About three and a half months ago… one day he woke up and was bleeding. She had a miscarriage. We lost our first child,” Ramaswamy said.
Moments earlier, DeSantis described his family’s experience with miscarriage.
DeSantis spoke about a trip he and his wife, Casey, took to Israel early in their marriage, where Florida’s governor said the couple prayed for a child.
“We returned to the United States and shortly after, we became pregnant,” DeSantis said. “But unfortunately we lost that first baby.”
It is the first time Ramaswamy and DeSantis have shared these stories publicly during the election campaign. They came out as part of the Family Leaders Thanksgiving Family Forum, an event organized by the organization’s leader, Bob Vander Plaats, a powerful man in Iowa Republican politics who has endorsed several previous winners of the state’s Republican caucuses. .
Vander Plaats asked each of the three candidates what they considered their biggest challenge to success in the Iowa caucuses. “I think it’s fair to address what I think is the biggest obstacle,” Vander Plaats.
Ramaswamy, a Hindu, was asked about his faith, while campaigning in the heavily Christian state. DeSantis was more active, and the Family Leader executive director said: “The bigger question is: Why doesn’t he wait his turn? Why not wait his turn to continue being governor of Florida? Why is this your time? Why is this? Now is the time. Because you will have to close that before January 15.”
Haley didn’t get off so easily. “In the Miami debate… you gave a passionate answer about life,” Vander Plaats said of Haley’s response on abortion during the third Republican debate. “You talked about sending it and that we are deeply divided.”
“Some pro-life advocates told me that sounded like a pro-choice response,” Vander Plaats continued. “Can you assure them why that is not a pro-choice answer?”
Haley responded the same way she had on the debate stage, reiterating: “I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice, but I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life.” But she also said she would have signed a six-week abortion ban in her home state of South Carolina if that was what voters wanted.
Evangelical Christians are a key voter group in Iowa, with about two thirds of Republican voters in the 2016 Iowa caucuses identified as evangelical Christians or born again Christians, according to NBC News’ entry poll from that year. Recent caucus winners have generally beaten evangelicals, including Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016, who edged Donald Trump by 12 points on his way to a narrow victory. according to the survey.
Now, Trump’s 2024 rivals took the stage at another event the former president has skipped, along with every Republican presidential debate so far, seeking progress with a group that could decide the course of next year’s presidential race. . DeSantis and others have set out to stop Trump in the early states before he can build momentum and inevitability around his comeback bid.
The event was nearly torpedoed by the Republican National Committee, whose rules put it in danger of not even happening just two weeks ago.
The candidates for the presidency of the Republican Party invited to the event receive a letter of the RNC reminding them of a commitment they signed promising not to participate in any debate that was not sanctioned by the RNC.
“Any Republican presidential candidate who participates in this or similar events will be deemed to have violated this commitment and will be disqualified from participating in future RNC-sanctioned presidential primary debates,” the letter said.
But after a mini-rebellion from DeSantis, among others, Vander Plaats and the RNC ended up reaching an agreement that the event would not become a debate and candidates could attend under strict rules. As Vander Plaats described it: “All candidates will gather around the Thanksgiving table for a moderated conversation about the future of the country and why they are the best to lead. There are no topics of conversation. No excavations.”
Overall, DeSantis, Haley and Ramaswamy respected the format of the forum, although Haley and Ramaswamy’s frosty relationship was on display before the event. Just hours before the Family Forum, Ramaswamy attacked Haley during a campaign stop in Iowa City. “I’m worried that whether it’s Biden or Haley, they’re sending their children to die so they can buy a bigger house,” the businessman said.
But during the Thanksgiving Family Forum, the two acted friendly. Ramaswamy added more depth to his story about his wife’s miscarriage, noting that a few months later, Apoorva was pregnant again, but she had a scare while operating on a patient in a New York hospital. “They prick her and draw blood,” Ramaswamy said, explaining that the patient was HIV positive and hepatitis B. “She starts receiving antiretroviral therapy and gets the hepatitis B vaccine again.”
“A month or so later, I get the call we were dreading,” Ramaswamy continued. “She’s crying, she’s bleeding.”
“The next day I was waiting for a call. She goes to the doctor’s appointment. I receive the call. She’s crying, I go to comfort her, and she said they found a heartbeat. And that was our son. That was our Karthick,” said a relieved Ramaswamy, sharing his family’s intimate and traumatic experience.
Despite the personal tone of some of the questions and answers, Vander Plaats’ promise to “no dig” was not entirely fulfilled. While the knives were not at each other, DeSantis did attack former President Donald Trump.
“I’m going to be a disciplined, focused leader in a way that Donald Trump obviously is not,” DeSantis said in response to Vander Plaats’ question about why he shouldn’t wait his turn. “I view his candidacy as high risk, low reward because I think, as an outgoing duck with understaffing and distractions, it’s going to be difficult for him to pull this off,” he added.