Theological stances vary among potential Trump running mates

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

As former President Donald Trump continues to mull his vice presidential selection, both he and voters, particularly Christian voters, will have to appraise each potential running mate using a consistent rubric. 

While there are myriad options available, the field of mass communication scholarship has an approach that should prove useful. 

In the world of public relations, there are numerous methods for assessing one’s client or organization, but few are as ubiquitous as the SWOT analysis. 

SWOT – which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – is meant to give an individual or organization a sense of where they stand in the eyes of specific, key groups by describing, in an objective way, where an organization is succeeding and struggling as well as areas in which meaningful growth or deterioration are possible. 

As previously reported by FISM, during a Tuesday Fox News Town Hall event, Trump was asked about a handful of possible choices: Governors Ron DeSantis (Fla.) and Kristi Noem (S.D.), Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.), businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).

Since any of these names could make or break Trump’s 2024 campaign, it’s necessary to give the SWOT treatment to each. 

However, given FISM’s positioning as an unapologetic traditional Christian news source and the fact that in politics one’s weaknesses are the threats to their success, the T in SWOT has been changed to represent “theology.” 

It’s well to assess what each potential VP candidate professes to believe on issues of key concern for Christians. Specifically, and most important, are they a Christ-saved believer? But beyond religious and denominational affiliation, what are their stances on sexuality, the sanctity of life, womanhood, and morality? 

We hope that the following exploration will help readers understand the good and not-so-good of each potential candidate. 

A NOTE ON RACE AND GENDER

For multiple reasons, the following analyses include no mention of race or gender. First, from a Biblical and moral standpoint, race and gender, like all immutable characteristics over which people have no control and which have no bearing on intellect, are irrelevant. 

The Bible is clear that Christians of different races have far more in common with each other than they do with unsaved or non-Christian members of their own families, much less their race. 

And, while it’s not uncommon for critics of the Bible to misrepresent it as saying women have no place in leadership, the Word is replete with stories of women in leadership positions. The only limitation is that the Apostle Paul warned that women should not serve in certain clerical roles. There is no admonition from the Word against women serving in political leadership positions.  

But beyond even the moral side, the right will not benefit from harping on the race and/or gender of a VP candidate. 

It’s an odd reality in the United States, but only the left is allowed to celebrate diversity. As a Los Angeles Times columnist told us a year ago, former California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder is the Black face of white supremacy.  

Were Trump to select Ramaswamy, Donalds, or Scott, each would become some version of a self-hating racist. Choose Gabbard and she would be that plus an anti-woman woman. Noem would be a racist by virtue of skin color, but sexist by dent of political affiliation. 

With that caveat in mind, let’s look at who we think are the most likely VP choices for Trump. The candidates are presented alphabetically by last name. 

FLORIDA GOV. RON DESANTIS

Strengths – DeSantis tracks as the preferred choice among right-leaning voters by a small margin. A recent Issues & Insights poll had him at the head of the field of potential Trump running mates. He also has the most trophies on the wall in terms of concrete, meaningful wins over progressive ideology in his home state. He’s famously shepherded the Parental Rights in Education Bill into law, helped pass a six-week abortion ban, registered historic numbers of Republican voters, and taken on Disney. 

He is a solid debater and public speaker who thinks quickly on his feet and is not afraid to tangle with the media. He had a viral moment in 2021 when he blasted a gaggle of journalists who sought to defend the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story. 

“You’re trying to tell me if there was hacked information that could damage me, you guys wouldn’t print it,” DeSantis said at the time. “Give me a break. You can whiz on my leg, but don’t tell me it’s raining. “

DeSantis is also strong in the area of law and order, having championed a law in Florida that created harsher penalties for rioting. In terms of immigration, DeSantis has been a proponent of controlling borders and once promised to send asylum seekers to Biden should masses of such people arrive in Florida at the behest of the current president. 

Weaknesses – In reality, DeSantis’s weakness is one of Trump’s making. Several years of being bashed by Trump must have taken some toll on DeSantis’ standing in the conservative eye. Granted, this is politics and those things can be worked out. Lest we forget, current Vice President Kamala Harris was adamant in 2020 that former VP Biden was an unrepentant racist. Nothing says I’m sorry like offering to let you be the second most powerful person in American politics. It would be difficult nonetheless for Trump, who has suspended using the nickname “DeSanctimonious” in reference to DeSantis,  to spin 180 degrees and tout the Florida governor as well and truly qualified for the second most powerful seat in the union. 

There are additional concerns that DeSantis is perhaps too Trump-like. He is in the Ted Cruz area where, for reasons perhaps even they can’t explain, liberals and celebrities have a visceral hatred for him. But beyond that, DeSantis and Trump are both Floridians. The prevailing wisdom in presidential tickets is that one should balance the ticket in as many ways as possible. Central to that idea is the concept of geographic balance. Trump is from New York but lives in Florida. That paired well with Indiana’s Mike Pence in 2016. It would be a risk to do a Florida-Florida ticket in 2024. 

It’s worth noting that DeSantis might lead the field in terms of popularity, but he is hardly a run-away winner. Issues & Insights found that 16% of GOP voters preferred DeSantis, which bests the field but is technically second to “unsure,” the response of 20% of voters. 

Opportunities – DeSantis figures to be a favorite in 2028. A conservative resurgence is going to need more than four years of Trump to tow the nation back toward something resembling traditional Christian values. Four years of DeSantis in D.C. would give him and, one can argue, conservatism writ large a strong chance against the next Democratic contender, who one can predict with a high degree of confidence will be well situated in Washington. 

Theology – DeSantis is a Christian and was raised in the Catholic faith. He has spoken often of having turned to prayer in times of crisis, particularly when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He has also been an outspoken defender of life – having backed the stringent Florida abortion ban – and womanhood. He famously lashed out at the NCAA for celebrating male swimmer Lia Thomas’ win over women in 2022 national championships. 

FLORIDA REP. BYRON DONALDS

Strengths – Of all the people mentioned during the Fox News Town Hall event, none have risen as far as fast in the last four years as Donalds.  He is a charismatic public speaker, unflinching in his conservative convictions, and likely to be a major player on the national scene for years to come. He is also a strong debater and able to go toe-to-toe with left-leaning media in televised appearances. Further, Donalds comes across as likable even on the left. Rarely will one see the full-scale assaults on Donalds that are common with Trump and DeSantis. He is also strong on most issues modern conservatives hold dear. 

Weaknesses – Donalds is a star on the rise, but he’s still a relative newcomer to national politics. He’s only been in D.C. since 2021 and isn’t quite the household name among Democrats and independents that he is on the right. He only garnered 1% support in the Issues & Insights poll. Similar to DeSantis, there would be a risk of a Trump-Donalds ticket coming across as too Florida-centric. Both are men who were born in New York and now live near the southernmost point of Florida. 

Opportunities – Age can be an asset. At 45, Donalds has many wonderful years ahead of him and could help to bring in a more youthful presence in the Republican Party. He’s been pushing for a youth renaissance for conservatism since bursting onto the political scene. At CPAC 2022, he advocated for using the benefits of capitalism as a means of winning young hearts. 

“They have at their fingertips the very manifestation of what a free-market economy and a free society allows,” Donalds said at the time. “So the political question of our time for all young Americans is, do you want to still be able to choose whatever you want, whenever you want it, at a moment’s notice and be able to get it? Or do you want to listen to Joe Biden? … I believe we can win that argument. I believe that Conservatives can win that debate every single day.”

Theology – Donalds is a professing Christian who has taken stances based on that faith. In 2023, while speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Summit, he shared that he found Christ while waiting tables at a Cracker Barrell. He is pro-life and, as stated on his campaign website, believes “each person is endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. The first among those is the right to life. Every life is valuable, from conception to natural death, and I will fight to protect the life of every unborn child without exception.”

FORMER HAWAII REP. TULSI GABBARD

Strengths – Gabbard’s biggest strength is her skill for educated, measured messaging. Trump is a firebrand who stirs emotion through off-the-cuff, edgy remarks. It’s a tactic that has won him quite the following and landed him in the White House once before. However, he needs a counterbalance to appeal to some voters. Gabbard would give him that.

Being ostensibly on the moderate left and from a blue state, Gabbard would balance the ticket. And she’d do so without Trump having to move too far to center on key issues. 

Gabbard is also unabashedly patriotic. She has served with honor in the U.S. Army since 2003 and has attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Indeed, when she sought the Democratic nomination in 2020, her patriotism was in stark contrast to most of her competitors. She’s also a great debater, having been credited by some with single-handedly upending the presidential campaign of Kamala Harris during a Democratic debate. 

She also supports protecting women in sports and backs parental rights in education. 

Weaknesses – Gabbard’s more moderate stances are both potentially advantageous and risky for Trump. If the MAGA message for 2024 is concurrently ending Democratic control of the White House and RINO influence in the Republican Party, he could discourage some of his base by appealing too much to the middle. Gabbard is anti-woke, but it’s not entirely clear just how far to the right she’s moved. Most important, Gabbard is by far the longest shot of being picked. She wasn’t even listed on the Issues & Insights poll, and it’s unlikely she is the person 20% of respondents had in mind when they said “unsure.”

The one thing a conservative observer can say about Gabbard with certainty is that she is not far left. She generally backs common sense and moderate ideas,  but her stances have evolved over the years. Back in 2019, per a report from PBS, Gabbard campaigned on talking points that were, for the most part, out of the Biden playbook. At the time, she backed ending the use of fossil fuel by 2050, the end of fracking, tuition-free community college for all, an assault weapon ban, enhanced background checks for gun buyers, and Medicare for all. Further, she advocated for gay marriage and the banning of discrimination based on sexual preference and identity.

Opportunities – Although Gabbard has moved farther to the right since her 2020 presidential campaign and subsequent bolt from the Democrats, she represents Trump’s best chance to hint at an appreciation that not everyone in America is a died-in-the-wool MAGA supporter. Presidential elections are traditionally won in the middle, or at least with the help of the middle, and Gabbard would be the strongest overture toward the fence-sitters. 

Theology – Gabbard, like Ramaswamy, is Hindu. Unlike Ramaswamy, who is clearly aligned with most of conservative ideology, Gabbard is best understood as an emerging conservative. As of today, Gabbard is against the concept of abortion up to the point of birth, which is better than the alternative but not exactly a strong pro-life stance. She is certainly a moral person. One doesn’t oppose a powerful political party from within and sacrifice her political future without moral convictions.  She clearly stands on her convictions, but her convictions can be hard to ascertain. Gabbard famously drew the anger of Democrats by voting present, rather than yes or no, on the first impeachment of Donald Trump. The area in which she is least consistent is abortion. While Gabbard has recently hinted at being pro-life, and was anti-abortion early in her life, in 2019 and 2020, while a candidate for president, her official stance was that abortion rights should be protected. 

SOUTH DAKOTA GOV. KRISTI NOEM

Strengths – Like DeSantis, Noem has major wins over wokeness and progressivism. She has fought to protect women and girls in sports and was a backer of her state’s abortion ban law. She also has a legitimate claim to being strongest on COVID-related matters. South Dakota was one of the few states to never lockdown as a matter of state-wide policy. Not even Floridians can say that. DeSantis emerged as a voice of opposition against President Joe Biden’s efforts to mandate vaccines and extend lockdowns and school closures, but he initially closed the state, albeit briefly when compared to the likes of California. 

Noem’s other most noticeable strength is her demeanor. Similar to Gabbard, she would pair well with an outspoken Trump in the sense that her speeches lean toward academic polish and measure, whereas Trump is a freight train that might hop off and back on the tracks multiple times as it plows toward the station. 

In 2022, Noem delivered a well-received speech at CPAC, one that stands as a great example of how she seeks to galvanize a support base in a much different way than Trump. 

She’s also been strong on the issue of transgenderism, having pushed to prevent boys and men from competing against girls and women in sports and championed a law that banned transition surgeries for minors. She made headlines in 2022 when she dissolved a state contract with a transgender advocacy group. 

Noem has also taken stances for American sovereignty. She helped create a new law in South Dakota to prevent Chinese companies from buying up farmland and, like other conservative governors, has backed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to secure his state’s border. 

Weaknesses – Despite Noem’s rise to Republican stardom at the height of COVID, she is not yet a household name. She’s made strides in her state but hasn’t sustained the momentum on the national level. Issues & Insights has Noem tracking at just 5%. Fair or unfair, South Dakota isn’t as central to the American psyche as other states. She remains well-known and liked among conservatives, but the same might not be true of independents. 

Noem also tends to rile moderates in the Republican Party. It’s hard to call this a weakness since Trump has ridden disenfranchisement with the establishment to the top of the party, but this is nonetheless a reality. 

Opportunities – South Dakota is a long way from Florida, both culturally and physically, so a Trump-Noem ticket would be balanced on the geographic front. Noem could also provide a powerful voice for conservative women, especially in the areas of transgenderism and abortion. As a former rancher, she also would give voice to ruralism in the United States. 

Theology – Noem is a Christian, who has long spoken of her faith as central to her life. She has also fought long and hard to preserve life. Her aforementioned row with South Dakota Republicans was a direct result of her efforts to push a heartbeat bill in the state, a move that met with resistance from centralist Republicans. She’s additionally proven willing to put morality over party affiliation. In 2020, she demanded the resignation and later backed the impeachment of the South Dakota attorney general after he struck and killed a pedestrian. 

BUSINESSMAN VIVEK RAMASWAMY 

Strengths – Ramaswamy is a political outsider at a time in America when that has value. He’s proven willing and adept at going into enemy territory, appearing on left-leaning media and giving as good as it gets. Just ask Don Lemon.

Ramaswamy is also from Ohio, which will be a key state if Trump hopes to win in 2024.

Most beneficial, Ramaswamy has an air of freshness about him. At 38, he is the youngest vice presidential hopeful in the presumed field. He hasn’t been on the scene long enough for middle-of-the-road and politically disinterested Americans to have had a chance to grow tired of him. He also has some momentum, having placed just behind DeSantis in the Issues & Insights poll with 14% of respondents listing Ramaswamy as their VP preference. 

Trump, a man who values loyalty, would certainly not have to worry about Ramasawamy leaving his side. Few people in America have been as vocal in support of Trump as Ramaswamy, who has lashed out at the left over various criminal civil prosecutions of Trump. 

Weaknesses – Ramaswamy is learning as he goes. There is a difference between a political outsider and a political novice, and it remains to be seen where Ramaswamy would fall on this scale. He is perhaps too polite to be in politics. While his kindness toward Trump is laudable, it’s notable that he never attacked Trump on anything of substance while still in the presidential field. That lack of political killer instinct cost him in the primary, and it would be a concern if he ran as VP.  Would he treat Democrats with kid gloves or give them the Don Lemon treatment? 

Opportunities – Ramaswamy, like Trump, has proven capable of building a business so, beyond being the newest face on this group, he’s an American success story. He’s made good running his own business and would bring a business mind to the political space.

Theology – Ramaswamy is a conservative to be sure, but he is not a Christian. Rather, he is a member of the Hindu religion. Ramaswamy has said he is not in favor of a federal abortion ban, largely on constitutional grounds, but he supports banning the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide through the FDA and wants abortion to be restricted to six weeks at the state level. He believes transgenderism is a mental health defect and opposes what he often calls the “cult of gender ideology.” However, he also is okay with gender-affirming care for adults, although not children. However, he is hard to pen down on the sanctity of marriage. He advocates for marriage and says that the union is the secret to happiness and financial success and argues that the federal government should not codify gay marriage, but he’s also said “I think that we’ve crossed a bridge in this country where having two parents in a committed relationship in the house is always better than the alternative, all else equal, right?” 

SOUTH CAROLINA SEN. TIM SCOTT

Strengths – Of all of the candidates, Scott is best known for his Christian beliefs, decency, and quiet resolve to affect change. It’s hard to find a Democrat or liberal media pundit who questions his morality and he was one of the few former presidential hopefuls who was not resoundingly lambasted by Trump. He is, in a word, likable. He also is the potential running mate on whom Trump focused most earlier this week. The former president took special care to praise Scott over and above all of the other names listed during the Fox New Town Hall. 

Like Noem, Scott offers Trump a true balance in terms of personality. Scott is unlikely to ever hurl an insult or drop a curse word, and he will maintain a certain level of decorum while leaning into his Christian beliefs. If there was a Christian scorecard for politicians, Scott’s would likely rank at or near the top of Washington, D.C. 

His political speeches can easily be mistaken for sermons and, as was the case in late 2023, he is comfortable speaking at length in a pulpit.

In terms of social policy, Scott opposes men in women’s sports and spaces. He once quipped that if you are born a male, you play against them. He’s also come out hard against what he describes as “grievance culture.”

Weaknesses – On the national stage, even with conservatives, Scott has at times proven uninspiring.  Just 8% of respondents to the Issues & Insights poll listed him as their preference, good enough for fourth place but behind DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. This could prove a benefit for Scott in the sense that Trump does not like to compete for attention, but it could be a damaging factor in the general election. Ultimately, Trump would be banking on his charisma being enough to lift Scott. 

Opportunities – It’s important to note that Scott offers Trump something that no other potential running mate does – enough experience in Washington to be connected, but not so much as to be a liability. 

Between stints in the House and Senate, Scott has been in D.C. since 2011. He’s not yet reached Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi levels of entrenchment in the Beltway – few outside ticks dug into aging deer have enjoyed that level of permanence – but Scott has been around long enough to have built some rapport with other legislators. This will be of immense importance if Trump wants to achieve anything in a second term. 

Although Scott might bristle at the comparison, and Trump would almost certainly reject the idea, the South Carolina senator is Pence-like. Mike Pence’s dual utility for Trump was as a man with the ability to work with the legislative branch but also as a person whose ethics were not a concern. Pence was and is a devout Christian, even if conservative voters have soured on him and he has soured on Trump. Scott would fill that role nicely and, as Trump’s charisma might be enough to overcome Scott’s sometimes milquetoast approach, Scott’s morality could be enough to assuage some voters who have lingering concerns about Trump. 

Theology –  The reality is that Scott, if he is chosen, will be castigated as too Christian by the left. A devout Christian, Scott is enthusiastically pro-life. He supports the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, all of which would reign in federal-sanctioned abortion. Scott is also well known for his convictions on religious liberty. He’s battled to, as he puts it on his Senate website, “repeal the Affordable Care Act’s intrusion on American’s religious beliefs. Government is already overreaching into our homes and businesses; it can’t be allowed to do the same with our faith.”

Scott believes in a traditional definition of marriage, is anti-CRT, and has pushed a 12-point “parental bill of rights,” which would largely give parents more say in the education of their children. 

DONATE NOW