WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed Newt Gingrich tonight at a Lincoln Day dinner.
"Surprise, Surprise," Cain said as he walked out on stage. "I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for the president of the Unites States."
Cain gave several reasons for why he reached this "public decision."
"One of the biggest is the fact I know Speaker Gingrich is a patriot," Cain said. "Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas and I also know Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder and I know what the sausage grinder is all about.
"Speaker Gingrich is running because he cares about the future of the United States of America, we all do," Cain said.
Gingrich thanked Cain and told the audience that as with Rick Perry, who also endorsed him, he had a place for Cain in his campaign.
Gingrich and Cain kept a positive relationship throughout the campaign trail.
"We're friends; let's just lay it on the line. I like Herman. I'm proud of Herman's career. I'm proud of the positive attitude he brings to life," Gingrich told a local radio station WBS in Atlanta in November.
Cain also expressed his admiration for Gingrich on the trail when they were still rivals for the nomination.
"Newt and I go back to the early 1990s when he was speaker of the House and he appointed me to the Kemp Commission on economic growth and tax reform," Cain said to radio station WHO. "We have such a high mutual respect for one another and the differences in our ideals are not that far apart."
When Cain was the front-runner he often hinted at a Cain/Gingrich ticket.
Gingrich and Cain also have a past that dates back 16 years in Washington. The two did welfare reform work together when Cain was president of the National Restaurant Association and Gingrich was speaker of the House.
In 1995, when Gingrich was pushing the "Contract With America," they stood together on the welfare reform issue and even made a joint speaking engagement.
Before the collapse of the Cain campaign, when the former candidate resigned from the race after a stint of sexual harassment allegations and a woman's claim of a long-term affair surfaced in the media, Gingrich came to his defense.
Gingrich said that with all the allegations, the media was "on a witch-hunt" for the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. He called the allegations "gossip."
According to some reports, the Gingrich campaign did not know of the Cain endorsement until this morning.