GOP 'Smart Set' Hardest Hit After NBC News Report Shatters Perceptions of DeSantis/Disney War

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

It didn’t take long after Disney filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis some two weeks ago that a narrative began to take shape among the GOP “smart set.”


Though Disney had long been regarded by conservatives including some influential Republicans as “too woke” for its britches, overstepping their bounds with the action they took on the “Parental Rights in Education” law, all of a sudden DeSantis was taking this “too far” and stood the risk of alienating businesses not just in Florida but those who might have been considering a move to the state.

For instance, GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley all but outright begged Disney during a Fox News interview to come to her home state of South Carolina and bring their “70,000+ jobs,” taking a Trump-like jab at Desantis in the process.

“Hey @Disney, my home state will happily accept your 70,000+ jobs if you want to leave Florida,” she wrote in a tweet that included the video clip. “We’ve got great weather, great people, and it’s always a great day in South Carolina! SC’s not woke, but we’re not sanctimonious about it either.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also told the network that though the “governmental-type powers” issue was a legitimate one, other aspects of the feud were potentially “problematic” for future business:

“I think where it gets problematic in the eyes of some people is when you start creating the idea — and I’m not saying we’re there yet as a state — but the idea that somehow if you run crossways with us politically, whoever’s in charge, then you may wind up in the crosshairs of the legislature for political purposes to make a statement at you,” Rubio said.


House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also was critical, suggesting DeSantis try to sit down with Disney instead of fighting this battle in court (though it’s Disney that filed the lawsuit).

Former President Donald Trump, who like Haley is a 2024 presidential candidate, attacked DeSantis over his Disney battle a week prior to the lawsuit being filed, though Trump’s attack was viewed as suspect considering the millions one now-former Disney executive poured into the 2016 and 2020 campaign cycles to help Trump and Trump-affiliated candidates.

So, with the “prevailing wisdom” in mind from these high-profile Republicans that it’s unwise for DeSantis to not back down from Disney, we turn to a new report from NBC News, which surprisingly enough shattered GOP-driven perceptions of how the feud is playing out in the state among Republican voters, strategists, and pollsters:

But Republicans who would make up the voter base in a presidential primary may see it differently. NBC News interviewed nearly three dozen potential voters, strategists and pollsters, finding a picture of a primary electorate that is skeptical of Disney and supportive of DeSantis calling out the corporate behemoth.

That finding is bolstered by three surveys that demonstrate support for DeSantis over Disney among Republicans — though DeSantis is taking a much bigger risk once Democrats and independents weigh in.


The report also suggested that for some Republicans in other parts of the country, the Disney/DeSantis feud was a non-starter one way or the other and wouldn’t matter much if at all come primary time:

But in some areas, the DeSantis-Disney war is barely registering on the radar, and veteran Republicans doubt whether it will be a factor in the election.

“It’s a land fight, and nobody knows what the hell it’s about,” said Brandon Scholz, former chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party. “It’s really inside baseball. Who really understands what this is except for a bunch of insiders?”

Amy Tarkanian, former Nevada GOP state party chair, echoed the sentiment.

“Nobody’s mentioning it. Out of all the possible issues that are out there. It’s not even whispered,” said Tarkanian, who isn’t yet supporting a candidate in the primary.

My thought on all of this is that the public intraparty disagreements with DeSantis on his strategy as it relates to Disney are more about donors’ cash than good business principles. Because some mega-donors are fretting about the lawsuit, GOPers who either want to stay in their good graces or get them to throw some cash in their direction are essentially taking the donors’ side on this and are sounding like corporatists in the process.

Meanwhile, the fact that DeSantis is staying in the fight rather than backing down in the face of the criticism from members of his own party is a good move, and it’s one that Florida Republican voters as expressed in three different polls now appear to appreciate.


It just goes to show, in my view, that DeSantis is right to trust his instincts instead of following along with the herd mentality. Not that he’s handled this battle perfectly, but he perhaps more so than anyone else talking big about corporate wokeness understands the stakes involved. And the fact that he’s unapologetically gearing up for a prolonged court fight with Disney with the knowledge in mind that it could turn big money donors away is a testament that he’s in this fight for the right reasons.

The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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