SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who is rumored to soon announce a 2024 presidential run – has been in a feud with Disney for months over the state’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
How much could this fight cost the state and DeSantis?
KCBS Radio anchors Margie Shafer and Eric Thomas spoke with Richard Foglesong, professor emeritus of politics at Rollins College and author of “Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando”, to find out.
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Already, the Walt Disney Company announced this week that it is pulling out of the deal to invest around $1.7 billion in the Orlando, Fla., area. This move would have sent around 2,000 workers from California to Florida.
“What's the payoff here? Because he sure is catching heck from some other Republicans about it,” asked Thomas.
“Gov. DeSantis’ autobiography makes clear that he is someone who doesn’t back down,” said Foglesong. He added that “this is not just about advancing himself as a Florida politician in this state… so he’s going to keep it up and he’s putting his woke campaign – anti-woke campaign… ahead of the economic interest of the state, in my humble opinion.”
Foglesong also noted that the Disney Company alleged in a federal law suit that the business is being attacked for disagreeing with the governor.
“I think it hurts them both a little bit,” he said of the feud. “Disney really can’t back down from this fight either because their position on LGBTQ issues is really now connected with their brand, and their brand is so very key to who and what they are. Similarly, I think it’s ironic, certainly, and potentially a liability for Gov. DeSantis to be criticizing a major American business corporation. Time was when Republicans were well known for being pro-business.”
As far as a potential presidential campaign goes, Foglesong said national public opinion polls indicate that there is about 70% Republican support for DeSantis taking on Disney and around 90% opposition from Democrats. From a business minded angle, he doesn’t believe that Disney can actually leave Florida altogether, as some politicians have suggested.
“It couldn't really ever happen because Disney is dug in. You know, it’s said about computer component companies that they can load their factory into a 747 and relocate in a couple of weeks. But you can’t do that with a brick and mortar theme park,” said Foglesong
However, pulling back new business could still be a hit to the Florida economy.
“You have to wonder, though, whether business minded Republicans will continue to support a governor who is pushing the cultural war over what is the usual Republican strategy of talking about lowering taxes, lowering regulation as a way of attracting new businesses,” Foglesong explained.