MSNBC's Joe Scarborough isn't seeing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a threat to former President Donald Trump that many do.
Trump himself sees DeSantis as his strongest challenger for the 2024 Republican nomination, although the governor hasn't officially entered the race, and the "Morning Joe" host debated their relative strengths with The Atlantic correspondent Mark Leibovich.
"Trump himself has a glass jaw, if we're going to throw that term around," Leibovich said. "Trump is not someone who takes well to that. He's deeply sensitive, and I also think that he's out of practice. I don't think he's as savvy, I don't think he's as vicious, I don't think that he's the unicorn that so many of us make him out to be."
The former president is beset by multiple criminal investigations and civil suits related to his time in office and his family business, and the panelists agreed those problems would absorb much of his focus away from a political campaign.
"The Republican bench isn't that deep," Scarborough said. "You get them all together -- oh, wow, okay, Trump, or DeSantis or [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin or whatever. I mean, Larry Hogan is far too moderate, too rational for this version of the Republican Party. You hear about this deep bench. Let's take them one at a time. Even Trump understands he's lost the suburban voters I talk about in northern Atlanta. There's a reason I talk about them. He's lost those voters, he's never going to get the suburban voters back in the Philly suburbs. You go down the line, he understands it's not happening. He could win the Republican primary, he's not going to win a general election."
"You then go to DeSantis, and if you believe every Republican in Tallahassee, if you believe every Republican that worked with him in the governor's association, you believe every Republican that worked with him in Congress, they'll tell you he doesn't have a personality," Scarborough added. "He's going to get knocked out on the big stage. That's what they say, not me, and then you go Youngkin, I hear some people saying he's not that effective a campaigner. Suddenly this Republican race that everybody thinks is going to be the 'thrilla in Manila,' suddenly you look a little closer, and you're thinking, man, this Republican race may be wide open after all."
Leibovich agreed, but said Scarborough is probably underrating Trump's chances of securing the GOP nomination for a third time.
"The default there is that, well, Trump could win the nomination," Leibovich said. "You say that almost as an aside, that's scary. I'm of the belief if Republicans want to stop Donald Trump, they need to stop Donald Trump. They have to stop outsourcing this concern to the Democrats, to the, you know, prosecutor X, counsel Y, and look, DeSantis might not fear Trump like others have, he might not need to fear Trump as others have. You need to swing hard at him, you need to go right at him. He's vulnerable on a lot of things."
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