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DeSantis Receives, Gives Punch in the Mouth

Over the last several days, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has made front-page headlines twice. Once was good news for him, the other occasion, not so much.

We'll actually start with the bad news, since it came first chronologically. In its fight with the Governor, Disney has been operating with one (mouse) hand tied behind its back. While the corporation has deployed its lawyers to great effect, it hasn't played its other trump card (no pun intended). Disney is, of course, the largest employer in Florida, and has a massive impact on the economy (not only the people the company employs, but all the other businesses and workers who depend on Disney money).

Disney CEO Bob Iger finally got around to pointing this out. He was on a phone call with shareholders, and while he did not mention the Governor by name, he did say this: "Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people and pay more taxes or not?" The threat here could not be more clear. There are plenty of Disney jobs, and there is plenty of other Disney investment, in Florida. However, a fair chunk of that does not have to be in Florida. There is plenty of stuff related to intellectual property, film production, management, etc. that could just as well be in any of the other 49 states. There's also the nuclear option; if a North Carolina or a Virginia ponies up a couple of billion dollars to subsidize a move, Disney might just consider it. Or, at very least, they might give Florida voters the impression they are considering it.

Getting outmuscled by Iger, who is 30 years older and probably 50 pounds lighter, was not a good look for DeSantis. So, maybe that's what motivated him this weekend. Or maybe someone has finally gotten through to him and persuaded him he needs to change his approach. Either way, the Governor called an audible and made a previously unplanned trip to Iowa. While he was there, he went to a car museum and pressed the flesh with attendees, and then cooked some hamburgers on a barbecue grill. He also visited a pizza place and a restaurant called Jethro's BBQ. No word on whether Jed, Elly May and Granny were there.

The Iowa trip represents a (potential) recalibration in two ways. The more obvious is that DeSantis is finally doing some retail politics. He may hate it, but if you run for president, and you want to win, you've got to accept that you're going to attend a lot of fish frys and steak lunches and county fairs, and you're going to have to talk to (gasp!) actual voters. We will see if this becomes a regular part of his itinerary, or if he was prompted by the peculiar circumstances of this weekend.

And that brings us to the second way in which this was a (potential) recalibration. DeSantis is now squarely in underdog territory, and if he wants to fix that, he's got to challenge the throne. The Governor is still not willing to spar with Donald Trump verbally, but the visit to Iowa was nonetheless a pretty big poke in The Donald's eye. See, Trump was supposed to hold a rally in the Hawkeye State this weekend, but canceled because of tornado warnings. DeSantis swooped in, and his Iowa appearances just so happened to be near the venue where the Trump rally was supposed to take place. Undoubtedly just a coincidence, we're sure. In any case, for those who care about macho, it would appear that the former president is scared of tornadoes and the current governor is not. Of course, we already knew Trump is afraid of rain, so it should be no surprise he's unwilling to take on a tornado.

Trump is now up 30 points over DeSantis in FiveThirtyEight's polling average, which means the Governor is now much closer to Mike Pence and Nikki Haley (and, for that matter, Vivek Ramaswamy) than he is to Trump. Oh, and the first post-sexual-assault-verdict poll came out over the weekend, and nothing changed; it had Trump up 52% to 19% on DeSantis. So, it's a good time for DeSantis to shift gears and see what happens. (Z)

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