Some Republican senators are worried that Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) fight with the Walt Disney Corporation is going to hurt the Party's traditional pro-business image. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who was governor of Florida before DeSantis, said it's time "for cooler heads to prevail." He stressed the importance of Disney, the state's largest private employer, to Florida's economy, noting that half the tourists to the state come to visit a Disney park. Scott isn't alone. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that it is problematic for state actions toward a business to be driven by politics. When Republican senators from Florida are telling DeSantis to cut it out, he clearly has a problem, but DeSantis shows no sign of letting up or letting go.
Just last week, Disney announced that a planned billion-dollar office complex in Orlando, which would have created 2,000 good-paying jobs, has been canceled. Scott and Rubio are worried that if DeSantis keeps it up, Disney will cancel more plans for investment in Florida. Specifically, Disney has plans for $17-billion worth of new construction at Disney World but that could change if DeSantis keeps going after the company. If Disney were to cancel those plans altogether and announce that future expansion will be in some other state, DeSantis' primary opponents will hammer him on how anti-business he is and how pro-business and pro-job-creation they are. That could hurt DeSantis badly.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), whose state could benefit if Disney decides to expand in some other state with warm weather, said: "I just don't think the public battle is useful."
Clearly DeSantis is playing with fire here. He is desperate to bring Disney to heel, but that probably won't work because the company has much better lawyers than he has and also has no need to "win" this on a tight timeline (i.e., by Nov. 8, 2024). The perception that he is killing job growth for the sake of trying to humiliate a much-beloved company he happens to hate is just not a winner. When the primaries heat up later, it will not be helpful to DeSantis to have a bunch of Republican senators opposing him because he is "anti-business." And if DeSantis does get the GOP nomination, we will be treated to the unusual sight of the Democrats yelling that they are the pro-business and pro-job-creation party and the Republicans are the anti-business and anti-job-creation party. (V)