My favorite campaign moment since I announced I was running for president was at the Machine Shed, a restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa. Of course, we all love a packed house and an energetic crowd, but I thought the questions asked were really authentic and suggested to me that there was a level of trust that I have started to build in the community. One person said they liked what I was saying, but wanted to know how I could represent Americans as a Hindu when we’re founded on Judeo-Christian principles. I love that. To be in a full room with a couple hundred people and someone stands up and looks me in the face and asks me that? That’s pretty inspiring. I told them that our basic values are the same, including the emphasis on family. Both Christians and Hindus believe that God provides the moral foundation for equality: Christians say we are made in the image of God (something I learned deeply during my years at St. Xavier High School), whereas Hindus say that God resides in each of us. I would actually be in a position to protect religious liberty without apology, precisely because no one would be able to accuse me of being a “Christian nationalist” (or any other nonsense accusation). One of my whole premises in this campaign is that fear has been infectious, but courage can be contagious, too.
I grew up in Cincinnati, not far from Columbus, which is where my family lives now. I love Columbus. Unbeknownst to many people, it’s the second largest city of the Midwest. Also, it’s got a pretty good comedy scene. There’s this place called the Funny Bone out at Easton Mall. All the great comedians come through Columbus — my wife and I enjoy going to see them. And the Columbus Zoo is really good. I recently took my son there.
Engaging in debate with me, I think, is not something that the other candidates will relish. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel recently said that primary candidates are going to have to commit to support the eventual nominee. I was the first candidate to say that I would do that. But if that’s one of the prerequisites for getting on the stage, I think the RNC would do itself a favor to lay out explicitly the full criteria for making the cut. That will avoid the perception of any game-playing or bias. Transparency and candor must be the way forward for the Republican Party.
My son’s third birthday was the same day as our first day of campaign events in Iowa — my family was supposed to be there for it, but the weather was bad so they couldn’t travel. We saw each other on FaceTime instead. But then we took the following Saturday off, invited our extended family all across the Midwest to meet at our house and we spent a full day together. That was very grounding. As a father, I’ve spent a lot of time with my kids over the last three years. Now we’re going to have to move to making sure we use our quality of time together to make up for the quantity loss.
Not long after my wife Apoorva gave birth in 2020, she went back to work as a throat and airway surgeon on the front lines of the pandemic in New York City. For the first few months of our son Karthik’s life, I was living with him in Cincinnati. Apoorva and I have always supported each other in our respective missions because we know we’re in it together. Everyone talks about running for office as a sacrifice for the family, but I’m hopeful that it doesn’t have to be that. Maybe it can be something that actually makes our family stronger by giving us a sense of common purpose.
I’ve traveled quite a bit, which means I have some good tips for anyone looking to make the most out of a trip. My first piece of advice — just for fun! — is to have a local real estate agent show you around. It’s a great way to see different neighborhoods, especially in a foreign country. They’ll take you to some cool places off the beaten track of tourist destinations. Of course, you should be frank about the fact that you’re not planning to buy something, but in my experience, they get a kick out of showcasing their knowledge of the area. They’re also very social people, so you might have some unexpected adventures. The second tip is, if you’re a runner, there’s almost always a 5k race happening wherever and whenever you travel. This is a great way to take in some beautiful scenery and meet new people.
When I’m not on the campaign trail, I enjoy playing tennis. I played through high school, pursued other interests in college, and picked the sport up again with a vengeance about seven or eight years ago. I managed to sneak a match in at 5:30 a.m. while I was in Des Moines. That was the only time slot we had on Friday morning after I went to bed around midnight. I enjoy stand-up comedy too — purely as a spectator, after having had a short-lived stint myself at it in New York City a long time ago!
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s April 2023 World edition.