Did Mike Pence just condemn his 2024 chances?

“January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol”, Pence said. “On the same day, we convened Congress again and did our duty. … You know President Trump and I have spoken to each other several times since we left office and I don’t know if we’ll ever agree that day. “

Pence is of course right. The violent insurgency on the United States Capitol, which left more than 100 police officers injured and five dead, was a cataclysm like American democracy has rarely seen.

And Pence, as vice president that day, had no role other than a ceremonial role – to oversee the formal certification of the electoral vote count that showed Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.

None of these facts, however, will protect him from the wrath of Donald Trump and the base the former president commands.

Trump has, in recent weeks, descended more and more into the madness of conspiracy theories that suggest he will soon be reinstated as president after recounts and audits of parts of the vote in Arizona and Georgia.
It is also, according to Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, “waste[ing] Pence to various people and RNC donors, for not overstepping his legal authority that day, growing louder after Pence’s book deal was announced. (Pence signed a multi-million dollar contract for two pounds in April.)
What Trump has done is make acknowledging the truth of what happened on January 6 – and his role in it – a kind of loyalty test for ambitious Republicans. Tell the truth about that day and run the risk of becoming the next Liz Cheney, short of her Republican leadership position. Lie about that day – or try to downplay the real danger the riot posed to lawmakers – and keep your Kevin McCarthy job.

Pence seems to put himself in the first category on purpose. Which is a very interesting bet given that there is, to date, no evidence that Republicans who break with Trump on January 6 have any political future within the Party.

After all, the Republican base – or at least a majority of them – is convinced that Trump’s election lies are true. Consider these figures from a recent national Reuters / Ipsos poll:

* 53% of Republicans in the poll said Donald Trump was the “real” president, while 47% said Joe Biden, who is the current president.

* Another 56% of Republicans say the 2020 election results are “the result of an illegal vote or election rigging.”

* More than 6 in 10 GOPers either “strongly” (39%) or “somewhat” (22%) agree that the 2020 election “was stolen from Donald Trump.”

Grassroots voters tend to have a say in the choice of presidential candidate. And rank-and-file Republican voters – at least to this day – believe Trump had the election stolen. And Trump, with the willful complicity of many Republican leaders in Congress, is trying to rewrite what happened on January 6.

Pence does not read this script. Which, in its own way, is admirable. But unless the Republican Party’s take on Trump changes dramatically by 2024 (still possible!), Pence’s position on Jan.6 may well disqualify him from serious consideration by Republican primary voters.

What a world.

CORRECTION: This analysis has been updated to correct Pence’s quote on the number of times he has spoken with Trump since they left office.

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