DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy each shared moving stories about their wives’ miscarriages at an evangelical Christian forum Friday afternoon in Iowa, while that they and rival Nikki Haley shared a stage while speaking to a key voting bloc in Iowa. the first state in the caucus.
“I’ve actually never shared this story before,” Ramaswamy said, his voice slightly trembling as he described the moment he and his wife Apoorva learned their first child was on the way while she was carrying out his medical residency in New York.
“About three and a half months later… one day she woke up and she 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 of a trip he and his wife, Casey, took to Israel early in their marriage, during which the Florida governor said the couple prayed for a child.
“We go back to the United States and shortly afterward we got pregnant,” DeSantis said. “But unfortunately we lost that first baby.”
This is the first time Ramaswamy and DeSantis have publicly shared these stories on the campaign trail. They came out as part of the Family Leader Thanksgiving Family Forum, an event organized by the organization’s leader, Bob Vander Plaats, a power man in Iowa GOP politics who has supported a number of former winners of the state GOP caucuses.
Vander Plaats asked each of the three candidates what they saw as their biggest challenge to succeeding in the Iowa caucuses. “I think it’s fair to address what I consider to be your biggest obstacle,” Vander Plaats said.
Ramaswamy, a Hindu, has been asked about his faith as he campaigns in the heavily Christian state. DeSantis got more of a softball, with the Family Leader CEO saying, “The bigger question is: Why doesn’t he just wait his turn?” Why isn’t he waiting his turn to remain governor of Florida? Why is this your time? Why is now the time? Because you will need to close this by January 15th.
Haley didn’t get off so easily. “In the Miami debate…you gave a passionate answer about life,” Vander Plaats said of Haley’s answer on abortion during the third GOP debate. “You talked about how to get the message across and how we are deeply divided.”
“Some pro-lifers have told me this sounds like a pro-choice response,” Vander Plaats continued. “Can you assure them why this is not a pro-choice response? »
Haley responded the same way she did during the debate, 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’s what voters wanted.
Evangelical Christians make up a key group of voters in Iowa, with about two-thirds of Republican voters in the 2016 Iowa caucuses identifying as evangelical or born-again Christians, according to the 2016 Entrance Poll. NBC News that year. Recent caucus winners have generally won over evangelicals, including Sen. Ted Cruz in 2016, who outperformed Donald Trump by 12 points on his way to a narrow victory, the survey found.
Today, Trump’s 2024 rivals took the stage at another event the former president skipped, as well as every Republican presidential debate so far, seeking to break through with a group that could decide how next year’s presidential campaign will unfold. DeSantis and others have made it their mission to stop Trump in the early states before he can build momentum and inevitability around his candidacy upon his return.
The event was nearly torpedoed by the Republican National Committee, whose rules were in danger of not happening just two weeks ago.
GOP presidential candidates invited to the event received a letter from the RNC reminding them of a pledge they signed promising not to participate in any debate not sanctioned by the RNC.
“Any Republican presidential candidate who participates in this or other similar events will be considered to have violated this commitment and will be disqualified from participating in any future RNC-sanctioned presidential primary debate,” the letter reads .
But after a mini-rebellion by DeSantis, among others, Vander Plaats and the RNC eventually agreed that the event would not turn into a debate and that candidates could attend under strict rules. As Vander Plaats described it: “All candidates will gather around the Thanksgiving table for a moderate conversation about the future of the country and why they are best suited to lead. No topics for discussion. No search.
Overall, DeSantis, Haley and Ramaswamy respected the forum format, although the frosty relationship between Haley and Ramaswamy was on full display before the event. Just hours before the Family Forum, Ramaswamy attacked Haley during a campaign stop in Iowa City. “I’m afraid that whether it’s Biden or Haley, they’re sending your kids to die so they can buy a bigger house,” the businessman said.
But at the Thanksgiving family forum itself, the two behaved amicably. Ramaswamy added more depth to his story about his wife’s miscarriage, noting that a few months later, Apoorva was pregnant again — but got scared while operating on a patient at a New York hospital. “She gets a pin prick and draws blood,” Ramaswamy said, explaining that the patient was positive for HIV and hepatitis B. “She is on antiretroviral treatment and gets vaccinated against hepatitis B again. ”
“About a month later, I got the call we were dreading,” Ramaswamy continued. “She’s crying, she’s bleeding.”
“The next day I was waiting for a call. She shows up for the doctor’s appointment. I receive the call. She’s crying, I’m about to comfort her, And she said they found a heartbeat. And he was our son. He 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 “don’t dig” didn’t really come to fruition. Although the knives did not clash, DeSantis attacked former President Donald Trump.
“I’m going to be a disciplined, focused leader, unlike Donald Trump,” DeSantis said in response to Vander Plaats’ question about why he shouldn’t wait his turn. “I view his candidacy as high risk with low reward because I think as a lame duck with poor staff and distractions, it’s going to be difficult for him to succeed,” he added. .
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