A ‘Veep of Faith’? Trump’s Running Mate Could Be One of These Catholics

The presidential contender has yet to announce his vice-presidential pick — and three of the top seven contenders are Catholic.

(L-R) Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. J.D. Vance, Rep. Elise Stefanik, and Gov. Greg Abbott, Catholic contenders for a possible V.P. pick on the 2024 GOP ticket.
(L-R) Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. J.D. Vance, Rep. Elise Stefanik, and Gov. Greg Abbott, Catholic contenders for a possible V.P. pick on the 2024 GOP ticket. (photo: Official Portraits / Public Domain)

The presidential tickets for both major parties are all but set, with one notable exception: Republican contender Donald Trump still hasn’t announced his running mate.

And several Catholics are reportedly in the mix.

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are widely considered to be on Trump’s vice-presidential shortlist, joining the ranks of non-Catholic front-runners like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. 

Another possible Catholic VP, according to both political pundits and odds-makers, is Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.

With the 2024 election otherwise set to be a rematch of 2020, when Trump and then-VP Mike Pence lost to Democrat challengers and now-incumbents President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, this election’s GOP veep will be one of the few novelties in the lead-up to November — suggesting a greater-than-usual level of impact.

Although vice-presidential picks typically generate buzz, political scientists say they historically don’t have much of an effect on the election, aside from a slight bump in the candidate’s home state. 

But 2024, which is set to be the first presidential rematch since 1956, could be different. Given how familiar — and deeply unpopular — both former president Trump and his Democrat opponents are, a fresh face could dominate media coverage and influence the election accordingly. 

Additionally, the fact that Trump, who will be 78 come Inauguration Day in January 2025, would be the oldest sitting U.S. president ever other than Biden (who will be 82) may lead voters to place greater weight on the Republican’s potential replacement when casting a vote.

In 2016, Trump announced Pence as his VP in July, so there may still be a few more months until an official announcement is made. But speculation is heating up, and three of the possible Catholic veeps — Vance, Stefanik, and Rubio — are slated to attend a Trump campaign event for major donors next week that could be something of a proving ground for vice-president contenders.

If Trump does pick Vance, Stefanik, Rubio, or Abbott for his running mate, it will be only the third time in the past 60 years a Catholic has been on the GOP’s ticket — William Miller (1964) and Paul Ryan (2012) both ran as vice-president candidates.

Here’s a deeper look at the Catholic Republicans that Trump could pick as vice president — and who could be a heartbeat away from the White House come January. 


Editor's Note: VP contenders are ranked by betting odds, according to OddsChecker.com, that were current at the time of publication on April 25. The number listed indicates how much money someone would win if they bet $100 on the winning candidate; so the lower the number, the greater the odds.


Odds: +1200 (fourth highest), or 7.7% probability

Age: 39

Political profile: The first-term senator and Catholic convert’s political approach was neatly summed up in the title of a recent First Things profile: “JD Vance, Religious Populist.”

Vance may be a newcomer to Catholicism, joining the Church in 2019, but he has quickly distinguished himself as a Catholic politician who doesn’t merely pay lip service to the faith, but draws deeply from it — especially a particular interpretation of Catholic political thought.

Vance spoke at Franciscan University’s 2022 conference on “The Common Good in the American Tradition,” is close with Catholic “post-liberal” thinkers like Notre Dame political philosopher Patrick Deneen, and has also written for niche Catholic magazine The Lamp

The senator’s Catholic convictions have directly translated into some of his policy commitments, particularly his bucking of typical GOP free-market orthodoxy in favor of economically populist reforms — a fitting focus for a man who rose to national prominence with Hillbilly Elegy, his 2016 memoir on growing up in Rust Belt Ohio that became something of a key for understanding Trump’s political ascendancy.

In fact, Vance has regularly partnered with progressive powerhouse Sen. Elizabeth Warren, earning the pair the reputation as “the new power couple taking on Wall Street,” and the Ohioan has earned kudos for his application of the Church’s social teaching to economic issues from more liberal Catholic publications like America magazine.

The husband and father of three is also a committed pro-lifer, who has said that Republicans must become the truly pro-family party in order to convince the American public to accept more abortion restrictions. He has also introduced legislation to ban gender-reassignment procedures on minors, a measure that seems consistent with the Vatican’s recent guidance on the topic, Dignitas Infinita. 

One area of concern some Catholics might have with Vance is his restrictive stance and strident rhetoric on immigration. He has warned of an ongoing “border invasion,” characterized by “Democrat voters pouring into this country,” which is “killing Ohioans.” Some have cautioned that Vance promotes a brand of nationalism that is inconsistent with the Catholic social teaching principle of solidarity.

The senator has also taken a decidedly “America-first” approach to foreign policy and recently argued in a New York Times op-ed that Ukraine is hopelessly overmatched in its war with Russia, even with continued U.S. support.

Running-mate rationale: If Trump’s road back to the White House largely depends on reenergizing the coalition that got him there in the first place, as opposed to connecting with new voters, Vance may be the ideal running mate. In fact, he may be a more convincing champion of socially conservative populism than the businessman and reality TV host who has made it the modern GOP’s calling card.

Although Vance is certainly no stranger to elite society — he graduated from Yale Law, worked in venture capitalism, and is close with billionaire tech founder Peter Thiel — his blue-collar roots and proven commitment to populist policy reform are likely to be welcomed by the MAGA base.

Furthermore, at a time when Trump’s backing away from a federal ban on abortion has alienated social conservatives, the prospect of a serious man of faith and pro-life stalwart like Vance being second in command could certainly energize the religious right.

Possibly the biggest obstacle for Vance as VP? The fact that Trump may decide he’s more helpful in the Senate, where the GOP is two seats away from taking a majority, and Vance still has more than four years left on his term. 



Odds: +1500 (sixth highest), or 6.3% probability

Age: 39

Political profile: Like Vance, Stefanik may be considerably younger than the historical median for vice presidents (55), but defying norms is kind of her thing. In 2015, at only 30 years old, she became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress at the time.

Representing the rural northeast corner of New York, Stefanik has served in the House ever since. Her rise to national prominence began in May 2021, when she was elected to replace Liz Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference. But the Saratoga County rep’s star burned even brighter following her performance during Congress’ 2023 hearings on antisemitism at elite universities. Stefanik’s grilling of the presidents of MIT, Penn and Harvard contributed to two of the three resigning — and even led Trump to approvingly refer to her as “a killer.”

Although she was initially known as a moderate conservative and was critical of Trump in 2016, Stefanik has increasingly aligned herself with the GOP front man and even endorsed him for 2024 before he announced his candidacy. Of Italian and Czech descent, Stefanik is a cradle Catholic, though she doesn’t regularly speak about her faith and her voting record’s consistency with Church teaching is mixed. 

For instance, she has an “A+” pro-life rating and endorsed a 15-week federal abortion ban, but was also one of only 39 GOP reps to support a bill codifying same-sex marriage into federal law, a measure vocally opposed by the U.S. bishops. Stefanik has also been criticized for not standing up to Trump’s harsh, racially tinged immigration rhetoric, though she has been a major critic of antisemitism and the federal government’s targeting of Catholic organizations.

Running-mate rationale: A wife, mother and graduate of Harvard, Stefanik is a member of a demographic that Trump has notably struggled with: college-educated women. If the former president is going to make gains with this group in 2024, a running mate like Stefanik could help. 

While picking the New York rep won’t deliver her home state for the GOP candidate (Trump lost to his Democrat challenger in the Empire State by more than 20% in both 2016 and 2020), Stefanik’s more moderate profile could help in swing states like Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin. 

The chief knock against the congresswoman will likely be her inexperience — the national campaign trail is an entirely different beast than running for reelection in the Adirondack Mountains. But thus far in her young political career, the New York native has consistently demonstrated that she can handle the heat. Whether she’s Trump’s VP pick or not, the future looks bright for this Catholic congresswoman. 



Odds: +1600 (seventh highest), or 5.9% probability

Age: 52

Political profile: We’ve seen Rubio here before. In 2012, he was rumored to be in the running as Mitt Romney’s VP before fellow Catholic congressman Paul Ryan received the nod. And in 2016, the Florida senator was one of several contenders for the GOP presidential nomination who ultimately got badgered out of contention by Trump.

But the Rubio of 2024 is not the same as previous iterations. Most notably, he has shifted from being something of a poster boy of neoconservative politics — marked by aggressive foreign policy and the promotion of free-market capitalism — to a champion of conservative populism

Some might say Rubio’s realignment is a crass political move to match Trump’s reshuffling of the GOP and its base, but the Cuban-American senator has consistently cited a different source: the teachings of the Catholic Church. 

In 2019, for instance, Rubio delivered an address on human dignity and work at The Catholic University of America, calling for “common-good capitalism.” The speech came on the heels of an essay he wrote for First Things magazine, “What Economics Is For,” in which Rubio drew heavily from Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical, Rerum Novarum.

A cradle Catholic who was confirmed and married in the Church, the husband and father of four attended evangelical services for several years before recommitting himself to his Catholic faith.

Rubio has also long voted consistent with Catholic views on life and marriage, and he has emerged as a leading voice against anti-Catholic discrimination in the U.S. In one notable break from the U.S. bishops, however, the Florida senator has abandoned his stance as a leading advocate for comprehensive immigration reform to prioritize border security and enforcement above all else, warning of “an invasion” on the nation’s southern border.

Running-mate rationale: Rubio’s populist shift harmonizes well with Trump’s policy agenda, but the Sunshine State senator brings something his fellow Floridian lacks: establishment credentials and a decidedly sunnier disposition. Although he’s a familiar name, voters may welcome him as a refreshing alternative to the candidates already on both major parties’ tickets.

Although Trump and Rubio have sparred before, the Cuban American seems to have made amends with his former opponent — unlike another Florida Catholic politician, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who challenged Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. In fact, Rubio has shot up in the rankings, rising from fifteenth to seventh this week alone. One unique challenge to Rubio’s possible bid to being Trump’s VP: the Constitution’s prohibition of a president and vice president hailing from the same state, which would require one of the two to move.



Odds: +8000 (19th highest), or 1.2%

Age: 66

Political profile: As a three-term governor of America’s second-most populous state, Abbott has executive experience tackling a wide range of issues. But if Trump picks him as VP, it will be all about bringing one issue into focus on the national stage: immigration.

The crisis on the U.S.’ southern border has surged in importance in the minds of American voters, and the Texas governor is easily one of the most recognizable — and forceful — figures addressing it. 

In response to perceived neglect by the Biden administration, Abbott launched “Operation Lone Star,” a statewide effort to crack down on illegal immigration. The effort has included busing migrants to other states, erecting controversial barriers using razor wire at the border, and even targeting Catholic ministries to migrants. Abbott — whose wife, Cecilia, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, is Texas’ first Latina first lady — has repeatedly butted heads with Texas’ bishops on the issue.

On other issues, the wheelchair-bound Catholic governor — who was paralyzed at age 26 — is more clearly in alignment with Church teaching. In 2021, he signed into law a six-week abortion ban that went into effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and has taken measures against the spread of gender theory, which Pope Francis has called “the ugliest danger” of the day. The Texan also isn’t hesitant to talk about the role his Catholic faith has played in his life and career.

Running-mate rationale: Abbott appears to have less VP upside than other possibilities and, hence, lags far behind in the odds. After all, he’s neither a woman nor a minority, isn’t necessarily popular at the national level, and can’t really be expected to deliver Trump a state or voting bloc that isn’t already squarely in his corner.

But if Trump wants to make immigration a defining issue of the 2024 election — and add a seasoned politician with governing chops to his ticket — the Catholic governor of Texas could be his man.