Imagining his next move is difficult. “The biggest and most obvious problem he has is he has to distance himself from the president, and when you’re vice president for four years, you can’t do that,” Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former aide to California Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, told me. Alternatively, “going into a crowded primary field [in 2024], he could say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy closest to Donald Trump.’” But after last week, he can’t do that either.
When Pence’s most memorable act is ushering in the Joe Biden presidency, the MAGA crowd becomes less a reliable following than a possible mortal threat. Spurred on by Trump’s remarks at a rally before the Capitol riot, some in the mob went looking for Pence. “Hang Pence!” they chanted, as they flooded the halls of Congress. Worried about Pence’s safety, federal agents have now surrounded his official residence in Washington, D.C., with chain-link fences and concrete barriers for extra protection. Any credit Pence gets for certifying Biden’s victory comes from people who probably wouldn’t vote for him anyway. “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” Whalen said.