'No one is afraid of him': Opponents say DeSantis is not considered a serious challenger
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 14, 2023. (Shutterstock.com)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to formally launch his presidential campaign next week, has tried to cast the Republican primary race as a two-man contest between himself and former President Donald Trump — a sentiment backed by national polling that suggests DeSantis is an underdog but the only candidate with double digit numbers consistently against the former president.

But according to Rolling Stone, other Republican presidential hopefuls aren't interested in bowing out to let DeSantis face Trump alone.

"Just Thursday, [DeSantis] told donors ... that 'you have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing,' meaning, 'Biden, Trump, and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president: Biden and me,'" wrote Asawin Suebsaeng and Patrick Reis. However, "According to seven GOP operatives and pollsters supporting 2024 contenders other than Trump or DeSantis, the other contenders — including declared and likely candidates such as Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Chris Christie — now believe DeSantis is, in their estimations, 'a paper tiger' whose less-than-stellar performance in his 'shadow campaign' has convinced them he can be torn down as the 'only' non-Trump alternative. And that belief, the operatives say, has only grown in recent weeks, as DeSantis’ poll numbers have wavered."

One GOP donor put his opinion on DeSantis bluntly in conversation with Rolling Stone: "No one is afraid of him."

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"Despite Team DeSantis’ repeated vows that this is not 2016, it appears the other 2024 Republicans are banking on a primary melee that looks exactly like what the Florida governor wants to avoid," said the report. "'The spring and early summer after [DeSantis’ 2024] announcement will generate some positive headlines and calm down some donor nerves, but the candidate’s retail skills and relatability and organizational issues — which have all been raised to date — probably aren’t going to get fixed in that span,' says one operative linked to a Super PAC backing a different 2024 GOP contender. 'The best-funded, most competent political organization in the world can’t make up for the fundamental limitations of the candidate. That is why a lot of people in this business have been DeSantis skeptics for a long time.'"

This comes amid a number of controversies for DeSantis, including his enactment of an extreme abortion ban that goes further than restrictions that are already torturing women in his state, and a retaliatory war against Disney that has led to the state canceling thousands of jobs and $1 billion in investment.