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Froma Harrop commentary: DeSantis, Don't waste your charm on us

Summary: And while some prefer the beach, others want the mountains. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis offered Disney a "Mountain Disneyland" free from "Florida's authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector." ... Gov. Ron DeSantis may have more clever things to say such as his condemnation of Disney for being "a corporation based in Burbank, California." Other governors can only hope.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at The Rosen Shingle Creek on Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at The Rosen Shingle Creek on Feb. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS
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It would appear that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis harbors ambitions to become the new Donald Trump. Whether a new Donald Trump could win the presidency in 2024 is in question. In 2020, the old Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a not-insignificant 7 million.
But even if a Trumpy candidate remained a political draw two years from now, DeSantis has a problem. He is not a Donald Trump. Try as he might, he will never be.

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Froma Harrop Commentary

It's not enough to just be obnoxious. Trump was also an entertainer. His raffish wit let him get away with a lot of things. He knew how to deliver his lines. Say what you want about Trump, he had a certain charisma.
DeSantis, sadly, was born without a sense of humor. Almost every picture of him shows a scowling face with mouth open. There is no charm to smooth over the meanness.
Nor is he good at conveying the absurdity required to win over much of the Trump base. Yale and Harvard Law ruined that for him. DeSantis really underestimates Trump's following, which could hear the in-your-face intention behind their leader's ridiculous grunts. DeSantis does it straight.
When Disney objected to his "Don't say gay" bill, DeSantis punished the company in a flamboyantly stupid way -- by shooting his own taxpayers in the foot. He stripped Disney World of its self-governing status. Not only had that been what brought the massive development to Orlando in the first place, but the deal also had Disney picking up lots of the bills normally covered by local taxes -- to the tune of $163 million a year.
Orange County's tax collector is not amused. "Road maintenance, flood control, they (Disney) have their own power plant, wastewater, drinking water facility," Scott Randolph said. "All of that debt and obligation goes over to Orange County the minute that Reedy Creek (the arrangement DeSantis attacked) is dissolved. There is no extra tax money that comes with that."
Last time we looked, disagreeing with a governor was legal. But really, was a weekend of media attention worth it? After all, DeSantis was bashing the company that employs 80,000 Floridians and provides the economic engine for an entire region.
But DeSantis has a record for making life hard for his state's biggest employers. Recall his going after the state's huge cruise industry for insisting that passengers be vaccinated against COVID-19. It was the height of the pandemic, and ensuring their customers' safety was a business imperative. This wasn't any culture war flare-up as much as DeSantis tried to make it one.
One of the golden rules of economic development is "Never do unto your tax base what you'd like other states to do unto theirs." Leaving Florida would be tough for Disney, but it does have alternatives.
Louisiana could become the New Florida. Before Disney landed on Orlando as the site for its massive development, it was also considering New Orleans. The company reportedly went as far as to buy up land in nearby towns across Lake Pontchartrain.
As for the cruises, Louisiana hosts a growing industry and would like more of that, too. Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and, yes, Disney already offer Caribbean and Central America cruises leaving from the fun city of New Orleans. And that's in addition to all those trips up the Mississippi River.
And while some prefer the beach, others want the mountains. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis offered Disney a "Mountain Disneyland" free from "Florida's authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector."
DeSantis may have more clever things to say such as his condemnation of Disney for being "a corporation based in Burbank, California." Other governors can only hope.

Froma Harrop can be reached at fharrop@wctrib.com or on Twitter @FromaHarrop .

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