Ron DeSantis' campaign was over when he decided to have a popularity contest against Mickey Mouse

Ron DeSantis' campaign was over when he decided to have a popularity contest against Mickey Mouse
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mickey Mouse.AP Photo/Michael Dwyer; AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File
  • Before entering the 2024 presidential race, Ron DeSantis proudly touted his conservative record.

  • But it was DeSantis' tussles with Disney that hurt his candidacy from the beginning.

  • The governor's fights with Disney didn't endear him to GOP primary voters in the way he had hoped.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seriously miscalculated in trying to overtake former President Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential race, having come in a distant second place in Iowa and pulling in dismal numbers in New Hampshire.

But after DeSantis ended his presidential campaign on Sunday, we can trace this back to his first great misstep, where this all started to sour and go wrong: his war against Disney, which hobbled his candidacy before it officially began.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster; Blaine Harrington III/Getty

When his willingness to pick a fight overcame basic political common sense

While DeSantis' political brand is rooted in a more confrontational style of conservatism, his crusade against a major state employer and one of the most prominent companies in the world set him apart from the rest of the field — and not in a good way.

Disney has produced 263,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida and in 2022 generated $40.3 billion in economic impact in the state, according to a company study. For decades, tourists have come to the state from all over the world to visit Walt Disney World.

But despite Disney's influence, DeSantis railed against the company when in 2022 it spoke out against Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act, which would restrict the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3.

The legislation, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, became a flashpoint in America's culture wars, which DeSantis was all too happy to use in advance of his reelection bid and his eventual presidential campaign.

DeSantis continued his crusade against Disney over the next year, taking control of what had long been known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and ending the company's self-governing status.

Image of fireworks at the Magic Kingdom at Disney. The castle is lit by purple lights and the fireworks are gold.
Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom.Courtesy of Terri Peters

A campaign built on fighting a popular American company failed to break through for some reason

It was a series of events that formed a big part of DeSantis' presidential campaign, as he sought to project toughness with a GOP electorate that had embraced Trump's hardline tactics on everything from immigration to healthcare during his single term in the White House.

The fight with Disney went back and forth, with the Mouse at one point scoring a damaging legal win over DeSantis when it was revealed that it had severely undermined his appointees' ability to mess with Disney World. It wasn't the clean win DeSantis needed, but rather a bruising boondoggle.

This would become a habit over the course of DeSantis' run.

But while many GOP voters had a positive opinion of DeSantis, it didn't translate into many votes, no matter what he had done while tussling with Disney.

In New Hampshire, which has a strong center-right tradition among its Republican voters, DeSantis had initially polled strongly early last year, coming ahead of Trump in the state.

But as DeSantis campaigned across New Hampshire, he lost support among primary voters, as he proved to be a poor fit for the state's Republicans.

The most recent polling showed just how far DeSantis had fallen in New Hampshire, with a January survey conducted by Saint Anselm College showing the Florida governor with only 6% support among likely GOP primary voters.

Coupled with DeSantis' 21% showing in the Iowa caucuses, where he was 30 points behind Trump, he didn't have a path forward.

DeSantis made his conservative "blueprint" the foundation of his campaign, pointing to voting and education reforms to bans on COVID-19 vaccine passports as his ticket to the White House.

But in the end, it was DeSantis' fight with Mickey Mouse that stunted his campaign, and he never recovered.

Read the original article on Business Insider