U.S. metals magnate Sabin sours on DeSantis, backs Scott in 2024 race

By Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) - Metals magnate and Republican donor Andy Sabin said he has soured on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over his stance on abortion and Ukraine, and is now planning to back Senator Tim Scott instead in the 2024 Republican White House race.

Sabin had been considering donating to DeSantis, who is expected to officially announce a White House run in June, but changed his mind after the governor signed a new law banning abortions after six weeks and called the war in Ukraine a "territorial dispute."

While Sabin is not a megadonor, his decision not to back DeSantis underscores concerns among some deep-pocketed Republican donors about the governor's viability after he signed the abortion restrictions into law and lost ground in opinion polls to former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

"I like DeSantis. He's a great governor, but I don't think he can win a national election with his viewpoint on abortion," Sabin, a prominent donor who hosts fundraisers for candidates, said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

A spokesperson for DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.

Sabin, who has donated about $1.7 million to Republican campaigns in the last three election cycles according to the non-profit OpenSecrets, made his money in precious metals. He is the chairman of the board of Sabin Metal Corporation.

DeSantis can still count on the support of some major donors, including billionaire hotelier Robert Bigelow, who recently put $20 million behind his campaign. However, some other big donors are holding fire. Citadel hedge fund founder and top Republican donor Ken Griffin, for instance, has not yet publicly backed a presidential candidate.

Sabin said he will back Scott, a Republican long-shot candidate from South Carolina who has made positivity and unity the main message of his nascent campaign. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, is expected to declare he is running later this month.

"We don't know a lot about Scott at this point, but I think he's a very viable candidate," said Sabin, citing Scott's view that Ukraine should be helped in the conflict with Russia and his stance on abortion. Scott has said that he backs a federal abortion ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A spokesperson for Scott declined to comment.

Sabin said he mailed a check to Scott on Thursday for $6,600, the maximum an individual is allowed to give a candidate for a primary and general election. Sabin said he planned to donate more to Scott, likely be through a fundraising super PAC, and has offered to hold fundraisers for Scott in the wealthy enclave of the Hamptons.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco, additional reporting by Jason Lange, editing by Ross Colvin and Alistair Bell)