Some voters in Iowa are still hesitant to throw their support behind Vivek Ramaswamy because they “think he is Muslim”, according to supporters of the presidential hopeful.
Mr Ramaswamy’s religion and skin colour are still factors that prospective voters are considering, locals told his wife Apoorva Ramaswamy at a recent campaign event.
According to polling by FiveThirtyEight, Mr Ramaswamy lags far behind his three Republican rivals on both a national and state level – commanding just 6.6 per cent of the vote in the latter survey – ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Monday.
At a campaign meet-and-greet on Thursday, Ms Ramaswamy asked supporter Theresa Fowler “what do people say” about why they were not supporting her husband.
“Well, the only one I have and I couldn’t even remember who said it to me, but they mentioned his dark skin and they think he’s Muslim,” Ms Fowler said.
“I kind of set them straight on that. I don’t know if they believe me or think I was covering for him, I don’t know.”
Ms Ramaswamy replied: “Not much we can do about that one.”
In an interview with NBC News after the event, Ms Fowler expanded on the concerns she hears from members of her own family regarding Mr Ramaswamy.
“They think he’s Muslim, so it’s his nationality more than anything,” she said. “It’s just that they can’t get beyond when you look at someone and, you know … I’m working on them.”
At a later event in Jefferson County, Iowa, Ms Ramaswamy was grilled further by attendees about her own upbringing and the family religion – the Ramaswamys are Hindu.
She told voters: “we do not come from the traditional background for most presidential candidates.”
“We care a lot about God and our relationship with God so I understand that when people hear that we’re Hindu, you want to know like, what does that mean? Who are you and what do you stand for?”
“Our religion teaches us that all of us have been put here by God for a purpose and everyone has been given some gifts by God and it’s our job to use those gifts to the best of our ability while we are here on this Earth.
In the early days of his campaign, Mr Ramaswamy reportedly faced so many questions about his Hindu faith that he eventually incorporated an explainer of Hinduism into his campaign stump speech, according to NBC.