As a rule, American governors make a point to be friendly to their contemporaries in other states, especially their immediate neighbors. At National Governors Association meetings, the chief executives of the various states always seem glad to see their peers.
With this in mind, it came as a bit of a surprise to see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raise the specter of a “cold war” with a neighbor. The Hill reported:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday warned of a coming “Cold War” between Florida and Georgia if Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams wins the gubernatorial election in the latter state. During a press conference in Gulf County, located in northwest Florida, DeSantis referenced the ongoing Masters golf tournament in Georgia, using it as an apparent segue into discussing the state’s elections.
“If Stacey Abrams is elected governor of Georgia, I just want to be honest, that will be a cold war between Florida and Georgia at that point,” the Republican governor said. “I mean, I can’t have Castro to my south and Abrams to my north. That’d be a disaster.”
DeSantis, in an apparent message to Georgians, added, “So I hope you guys take care of that and we’ll end up in good shape.”
As part of an apparent attempt to clarify matters, a spokesperson for the Floridian later claimed DeSantis “was simply making an analogy to the stark ideological differences that underpinned the Cold War.”
I’m not sure that helps, and it’s certainly not what the governor actually said. As the video of his comments shows, the Republican didn’t just say he and Abrams share different ideologies, he said, “I just want to be honest, that will be a cold war” between the two states if Georgians elect a governor he disagrees with.
Stepping back, there are a handful of notable angles to this, starting with the curious fact that DeSantis seems to think Castro still leads Cuba. He does not. Fidel Castro died six years ago, and the late dictator’s brother, Raul Castro, stepped down a year ago this week.
Given Florida’s proximity to the island, and the number of Cuban-American citizens living in the Sunshine State, it’s odd that the governor appeared unaware of this.
What’s more, it’s extremely unusual, at least in modern history, to hear any sitting American governor warn of a looming “cold war” with a neighboring American state. If DeSantis doesn’t think he can get along with next-door governors inside his own country, perhaps he’s in the wrong line of work.
I’m not even sure what a “cold war” between Florida and Georgia would look like. Would DeSantis envision some kind of trade restrictions? A competition for influence with other states in the southeast?
Finally, let’s not forget that both states are holding competitive gubernatorial races this year. Though this almost certainly wasn’t his intention, DeSantis effectively made the case that if Floridians believe Abrams might win, the way to ensure regional harmony is to vote the Republican out of office.