McConnell took a 'baby step' away from Trump -- here's what he must do to finally break free: conservative
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald J. Trump. White House Photo by Tia Dufour.

The Republican Party has a leadership problem, according to one conservative, and an even worse problem with its voters.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and former vice president Mike Pence each broke with Donald Trump this week over the Jan. 6 insurrection, which The Bulwark columnist Charlie Sykes welcomed as a "baby step" toward recognizing the reality -- but he doubts that will fly with GOP voters.

"The vast majority of Republican voters are Trumpist or Trump-adjacent and until that changes, the comments of folks like Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell are really just political sea foam," Sykes wrote.

The Republican National Committee last week voted to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for helping House Democrats investigate Trump's efforts to remain in power, and Sykes and other observers see signs of a GOP crackup over the move.

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"In his statement, McConnell went further than Pence did last week," Sykes wrote. "He (1) acknowledged that the election was legitimate, (2) described Jan. 6th graphically as 'a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power,' and (3) explicitly pushed back against the Trumpified RNC."

Now it's up to McConnell to embrace the recommendations of the House select committee and reject Trump as the 2024 nominee.

"Based on past experience, this may be merely sound and fury, signifying nothing," Sykes wrote. "But there are real signs of stress as Republicans come to grips with the latest fiasco caused by their fealty to [the former guy]."