Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar is shown with former President Donald Trump at a Diwali party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in 2022. / Photo courtesy of Shalabh Kumar
Despite very strong showings on the debate stage last week by presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, political pundits predict Indian American Republicans will eschew identity politics and vote for former President Donald Trump, currently the front runner by a wide margin.
According to AAPI Data, 48 percent of Indian Americans are registered Democrats, 22 percent are Republicans, and 30 percent identify as neither. About 15 percent of Indian Americans voted for Trump in 2016; AAPI Data had no numbers for 2020.
Caption - Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former United States ambassador to the United Nations
According to a New India Abroad analysis of 2023 Federal Election Commission reports, Haley has emerged as the winner among Indian American Republican donors. 28 desis gave Haley the maximum individual donor amount of $6600, either directly to her campaign or to her PAC ‘Team Stand for America.’ She has raised almost $10.5 million, putting her in 7th place for fundraising among all candidates.
Ramaswamy has raised $19 million overall, including a $15 million loan he made to his campaign. His 'American Exceptionalism Super PAC' has raised $505,130 to date. He has collected roughly $3.5 million from individual contributors, but did not collect the maximum amount of $6600 from any Indian American donor. Pavan Kumar Cheruvu, CEO of Bitterroot Bio in San Jose, California, donated $25,000 through Ramaswamy’s PAC.
As of Q2 FEC reports, Trump had not gained much financial footing from the Indian American community. However, money is being raised through three PACS with no FEC reporting requirements: the Republican Hindu Coalition, Americans4Hindus, and Indian Americans for Trump. The former president has raised almost $36 million, while President Joe Biden has raised more than $31 million.
Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and co-director of AAPI Data, told New India Abroad that Ramaswamy — a biotech entrepreneur — and Haley — the former governor of South Carolina who served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations during a portion of Trump’s tenure at the White House —both came out clearly ahead on the debate stage. “But it is unlikely to significantly impact voter preferences.”
Caption- Vivek Ramaswamy, Biotech entrepreneur
“Ramaswamy is the disruptor with big radical ideas. Haley represents experience, competence, and calm in the face of chaos. But that’s not where Republicans are now,” he said.
“If inflation remains stubbornly high, and crime continues to rise,” it’s going to be tough for President Biden.” Ramakrishnan noted that Trump has gained some traction with Indian American men, but marginally. Trump has made his mark with the Indian American community, Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar,’ founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, told New India Abroad. In 2016, Kumar — the founder of AVG Electronics, who also serves as the national chair of the Hindu and Indian coalition in the Republican National Committee — and his wife donated just shy of $1 million to Trump’s first bid for office. His son Vikram donated $163,000, according to his Federal Election Commission report.
In 2020, the RHC raised over $4 million to support Trump’s re-election bid.
“Hindu power is everywhere. Our competency is generally very high,” proclaimed Kumar, noting the rise of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Dr AD Amar, a professor of management at Seton Hall University and founder of Indian Americans for Trump, told New India Abroad that Ramaswamy was a strong presence on the debate stage, but: “Trump is the top of the ticket for me.”
“Vivek stood his ground and said he would pardon Trump if necessary. He wants to impress Trump to serve as his running mate,” said Amar. He contended that Haley also did well, but floundered on the critical issue of abortion bans.
Both Amar and Kumar contended that Trump would prevail and beat Biden despite 91 indictments and four criminal cases against him.
“I really hope Trump is the Republican nominee. There is absolutely no way he can win,” Rajiv Bhateja, co-founder of They See Blue, told New India Abroad. “Biden apathy is justified, but he governs really well,” he said, noting that the President managed to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, holds a strong position on Ukraine, and has created thousands of good-paying jobs.
“He doesn’t have a lot of charisma, but all that the GOP has on him is Hunter Biden,” said Bhateja referring to the case against Biden’s son who failed to pay taxes, bought a handgun while in treatment for alcoholism, and allegedly used his father’s tenure as vice president to leverage clients for his business dealings.
“The Trump administration was a really bad dream. I don’t really want to relive that,” said Bhateja.