By Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau –
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich for president Saturday night in what was billed as a surprise appearance by the retired pizza chain executive.
“I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for president of the United States,” Cain said in a brief speech at the Palm Beach County GOP Party Lincoln Day Dinner in West Palm Beach, Fla.
About a week ago, Cain addressed a gathering of Republicans in South Carolina and said he had held off from endorsing a candidate because he didn’t want an endorsement to “split my support.”
He said Saturday that the decision to back Gingrich had been in his heart for some time.
“There are several reasons, many reasons, as to why I have reached this public decision,” he said. “I had it in my heart and mind a long time ago.”
“One of the biggest reasons is the fact that I know that Speaker Gingrich is a patriot,” Cain said. “Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas. And I also know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president, and going through this sausage grinder—I know what this sausage grinder is all about. I know that he’s going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America. We all do.”
Cain dropped out of the Republican presidential race in December after repeated allegations that he had inappropriate sexual encounters with women who were not his wife.