An internal battle inside the Trump campaign has gone public, much to the chagrin of the Trump staff.

The former president is itching to go after his opponents in the upcoming series of Republican presidential debates. The first one is in August. He thinks his schoolyard taunting routine will work for him as well as it did in 2016, when he bulldozed the field and reduced other Republican candidates to weak flummoxed losers.

But his senior staff, including family members, are advising him that this is not 2016 and his bullyboy act is old news. When he tried it against Biden it didn’t work. Not to mention that neither Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, nor Chris Christie is Jeb Bush.

Bush just stood there with his thumb up his tail as Trump abused him seven ways from Sunday. Think DeSantis or Ramaswamy will do that? DeSantis will calmly come at him with facts. Scott will sound optimistic and inspirational. Ramaswamy will mark the wide gulf between Trump and conservatism, and former US Attorney Christie will treat him like a self delusional mob boss.

And the drama between Trump and Pence? With one misstep by Trump it could go Pence’s way. Trump’s staff can see all that, like Buford reportedly saw what could have happened at Gettysburg without the high ground, and want to avoid it at all costs. They understand Trump is on top right now and they ask themselves: Why should we put our guy out for target practice?

Sure, if he ducks out the other candidates and the press will brand him a coward. So what? It won’t matter to his loyal following who will vote for him under any circumstances in the primary or the general. Trump could get caught on camera dressed up as an SS officer while pleasuring a goat during high noon smack dab in the middle of the busiest intersection in Manhattan and his acolytes would brand it “fake news.”

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So that’s the palace intrigue. Trump wants at his challengers and his command wants him to play it smart and safe. As for his opponents, they want at him as well.

DeSantis has already started blaming Trump for listening to Fauci and thus crippling the economy. Fair enough. Trump’s claims about the DeSantis congressional voting record and his success, or as Trump sees it lack thereof, as governor of Florida could make for a potential Trump comeuppance of staggering proportions.

The thing to watch out for will be the 2020 bait. If one of the other candidates can get Trump to go on a Matthew Harrison Brady-like rant on his conspiracy theories regarding the 2020 contest then Trump could lose his marbles right there in prime time.

Regardless of that issue, they all will be goading Trump to be the worst aspect of Trump in general. Why take that chance? His staff is right. Duck and cover is Trump’s best chance at keeping his lead.

But say what you want about him, the former president is his own man. Good or bad for him, dumb or smart, a calculated risk or a sucker’s bet, he’ll be at those debates.