Mike Pence led the coronavirus task force only to be constantly overruled by the White House. Al Gore's efforts to “reinvent government" were largely forgotten during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Dan Quayle's revamping of space policy never got much notice to begin with.

For decades, the job of a vice president was to try to stay relevant, to avoid being viewed, in the words of one occupant of the post, as “standby equipment." But in recent administrations, the seconds-in-command have increasingly been deputized with special policy assignments that add some weight — and political risk — to the job.

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