Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has positioned himself as a culture warrior ahead of a possible White House bid, and an expert on the state's politics says his success is making Donald Trump nervous as he considers his own campaign.
NBC News national political correspondent Marc Caputo told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that Trump is anxious about the support DeSantis has picked up by raging against classroom lessons on "critical race theory" and LGBTQ inclusion, and the governor is now seen as the most viable GOP contender to the former president.
"I think it is beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ron DeSantis is living rent-free in between Donald Trump's ears, it's not the other way around," Caputo said. "When you talk to people who talk to Trump, he frequently talks about DeSantis, not necessarily in a completely negative way, but he is looking at him the same way, like, Julius Caesar looked at Cassius in Shakespeare's play. He is a potential threat."
That threat, as well as the looming threat of criminal charges in various investigations, is pushing Trump to announce his intention to run in 2024.
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"One of the reasons Donald Trump might announce early, this year, is DeSantis keeps climbing up in the polls," Caputo said. "Trump figures, look -- and this is according to people who have spoken to him, us, and others -- 'If I announce now and become the nominee, no one else will run against me.' I am among those that believe if the polling holds, and that is a big if, I don't see Ron DeSantis challenging Donald Trump at the current rates, like Trump is still getting half of the Republican primary voters, DeSantis, far less."
"DeSantis knows campaigning against Donald Trump, ask anyone who ran against him in the primary, this guy is a self-immolating arsonist who is wearing an asbestos suit and you burn," he added. "If there are enough people who draft him, the opinion may change."
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