'Trump could crush DeSantis' -- but the Florida governor's power is growing: NBC reporter
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and President Donald Trump (Photo: White House)

The feud between Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump has spilled into public view, but one political insider sees a chance for the Florida governor to steal some of the former president's thunder.

DeSantis criticized the former president's response to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and NBC News reporter Mark Caputo explained to MSNBC's "Morning Joe" how that signals a shift in the political dynamic between the two top contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"I think at this point, and notice how I said 'at this point,' Donald Trump is still the center of gravity of the Republican Party around which others revolve," Caputo said. "He's got so much weight that he could kind of crush DeSantis in that. However, as time goes on and DeSantis becomes more popular in the GOP, things could change. A week is a lifetime in politics, and we're talking about 2024."

Trump has privately groused to allies that DeSantis hasn't publicly pledged that he won't challenge Trump for the nomination, and he appeared to take a swipe at the governor, but his guidance of Florida through the pandemic has won him many fans within the GOP.

RELATED: Trump feels 'betrayed' by DeSantis after singlehandedly creating his political rise: NYT reporter

"There is an interesting every evolution that happened around DeSantis," Caputo said. "He got elected in 2018 and took office in 2019, and around March 2020, the pandemic happened, and he was a subject to a lot of criticism from the national news media and from a lot of experts and, at first -- things changed with the delta variant in August -- but what you saw up until August of 2021 was DeSantis became more and more powerful with the base as he resisted more and more of the experts in of the media and what Democrats said he should do with mask mandates, later with vaccine mandates, and so he sort of grew into that role."

"DeSantis has a real kind of 'take on all on all comers' sensibility to him, he kind of can get in a fight on an empty room," Caputo added. "The base loves that."

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