Taking on your state’s largest employer and one of its largest taxpayers was a risky move for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. With an eye toward running for the White House in 2024, DeSantis made a calculated gamble by attacking the Walt Disney Company over its response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and crusading on making Florida the state where “woke goes to die” would make him stand out in what will be a crowded Republican primary field.
Governor DeSantis’ strategy seems to be working with Republican voters. In March, a University of North Florida poll showed that Disney and DeSantis had roughly the same favorability rating among all respondents. Disney was at 52 percent, while DeSantis was at 50 percent. However, if you look at Republican respondents, DeSantis’ favorability was 87 percent, while Disney’s dropped to 27 percent.
In a Reuters poll released last week, 64 percent of respondents believed DeSantis was punishing Disney for free speech. However, in that same poll, 64 percent of Republican respondents thought DeSantis was correct to pass laws restricting Disney’s land use and removing the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Faculty Director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida, Michael Binder, told NBC News:
The people that say this is an issue that’s going to cost him and is ruining his chances, I think, are just blatantly not right about that. You can’t get to the general unless you get through the primary. And Donald Trump takes up a lot of space.
In recent weeks, DeSantis has been touring the country, promoting his book, Courage to Be Free. During his book tour, Governor DeSantis has hit several states with early Republican primaries, including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
Despite how popular DeSantis’ fight with Walt Disney World has been with voters, many strategists and donors are not happy about this high-profile feud.
Ron Gidwitz, a major GOP fundraiser who served as the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s finance chair and was a Trump-era ambassador but is undecided for 2024 told NBC News:
Some of the stuff that he’s been doing recently doesn’t sit all that terribly well with donors. This craziness with Walt Disney — I mean, how do you get into a fight with Mickey Mouse?
There is, of course, another looming problem for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and that comes in the form of former President Donald Trump. The former president has already declared his intention to run, despite his growing legal issues, and has a sizeable lead over all his Republican challengers.
In ABC/Washington Post poll released on Sunday, May 7, Trump was polling at 53 percent among Republican voters. Governor DeSantis was his closest challenger at 25 percent. No other challenger was polling in double digits. It is still 18 months away from the Presidential election.
We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.