Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on November 6, 2021.
CNN  — 

Former Vice President Mike Pence has caused an uproar by saying he did not have the lawful ability to overturn the 2020 election results on January 6, 2021. Pence has argued correctly, according to almost every single legal scholar, that his role as president of the Senate was largely ceremonial during the congressional count of electoral votes. “President Trump is wrong,” Pence declared last week.

Normally, taking a position against the former President would be the death knell in Republican politics, but data shows that this looks to be the rare case where Pence is unlikely to face much wrath from the base.

Take a look at a recent poll from CBS News/YouGov. The question it asked was simple: After states certify their election results, should Congress have the ability to overturn those results or must they accept them? The vast majority of Americans, 75%, believe that Congress should have to accept those results. Just 25% disagreed.

When we examine the results by party, it becomes clear that Pence is probably standing on firm ground with all sectors of the electorate. Democrats (81%), Republicans (70%), voters who supported President Joe Biden (86%) and, yes, voters who went for Trump (73%) all agree that Congress should have to accept the results that were certified by the states.

The fact that there is uniform agreement here might be why there looks to be bipartisan support for clarifying the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which tells Congress what it can and can’t do with the electoral votes sent by the states. We heard GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has Trump’s endorsement in his 2022 Senate reelection bid, voice his support for Pence’s decision. 

Republican support makes this bill unlike other election or voting bills that lawmakers have tried to pass through Congress, which tend to be very divisive politically. Opposition to the recent voting rights bill in Congress outran support by an 8:1 margin among Republicans nationwide.

Pence’s lasting popularity, in fact, seems to prove that there may not be a big appetite among Republicans to punish members of Congress who went against Trump in the certification of the election.

After January 6 last year, Republicans were asked in an Ipsos poll whether they approved of the recent behavior of members of Congress. This was right after Pence had overseen Congress accepting the electoral votes.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Republicans said they approved of Pence. This was higher than every other Republican tested: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (61%), Missouri’s Sen. Josh Hawley (46%), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (42%), Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah (34%) and even Trump himself (64%).

This is part of what makes Pence unique among Republicans who have taken Trump to task. Pence is popular in his own right. His favorable rating stands at 64% in recent polling versus an unfavorable rating of 26%. This is good for a +38 point net favorability rating.

Compare Pence’s popularity with that of other Republicans who have spoken out against Trump. Romney’s net favorability is -30 points. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s is -40 points.

This gets at something key: Not all criticism of Trump is equal in Republicans’ minds. There is a major difference among Republicans between saying that Trump should be impeached and removed from office and accepting the 2020 vote returns from states. The former had the support of less than 10% of Republicans. The latter is what most Republicans want to happen going forward.

Indeed, Republicans do seem to tolerate some criticism of Trump. Much has been made, including by me, of a Pew Research Center poll question querying Republicans on how accepting the party should be of elected officials who openly critique Trump.

Only 37% of Republicans indicated that the party should be very or somewhat accepting of those officials. Then there is the 30% who believe the party should not at all be accepting.

The plurality response was not too accepting at 32%. When you add this 32% with the 37% who agree that the party should be at least somewhat accepting, you get 69% of all Republicans who don’t believe the party should be totally unaccepting of those who go after Trump.

Another way of looking at it is that you can disagree with the former President here and there but you can’t be doing so consistently or be too vocal about it. Pence has so far done a pretty good job of that. It doesn’t hurt that the former vice president chose an issue on which most Republicans agree with him.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Pence would be a major contender for the 2024 presidential nomination. He’s currently coming in third, behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But the reason Pence won’t win the 2024 nomination is probably because of other issues, not his role on January 6.