Former presidential candidate Herman Cain was interviewed on Fox News yesterday morning where he explained his endorsement of former rival Newt Gingrich, commending the former Speaker for his communication skills and embrace of replacing tax codes. Cain said he has nothing against the other remaining Republican presidential candidates, and reiterated that he still endorses "the people," and his overt support of Gingrich does not interfere with that.
Twenty-four hours later, rumors are spreading that there were more factors in play leading to Cain's endorsement of Gingrich, one of the last candidates standing vying for the so-called "anti-Romney" vote. Grace Wyler of Business Insider writes:
"Sources familiar with Cain's decision told Business Insider that the endorsement was the result of pressure from the Tea Party Express, one of the leading organizations supporting the Tea Party movement. According to those sources, Florida-based activists aligned with the Tea Party Express and other groups have launched an all-out blitz to get leaders of the movement to come out in support of Gingrich, in an increasingly desperate attempt to halt Mitt Romney's surge in the Sunshine State."
Cain has had a warm relationship with the Tea Party Express, giving its response to the State of the Union last week. However Wyler notes that the former pizza executive's relationship to the fellow Georgian goes back further than the 2012 election, writing that Gingrich has been praising Cain since the 1990s.
Cain had said Monday that his endorsement decision was made independently, and specified that he did not talk to Sarah Palin or Rick Perry. Palin, another fan favorite of the Tea Party Express, has not officially endorsed Gingrich but has made statements favorable of the former Speaker.
The Associated Press reports that Cain widened his support Tuesday for whoever secures the Republican nomination for President, perhaps softening his endorsement of Gingrich:
(AP) -- Fresh off campaigning for Newt Gingrich in Florida, former candidate Herman Cain says he also would be comfortable supporting Mitt Romney if he's the one who wins the Republican presidential nomination.
Cain made his remarks as Floridians were heading to the polls Tuesday for their GOP primary.
Cain told NBC's "Today" show that he endorsed Gingrich and campaigned with him Monday because he found Gingrich's tax plan similar to his own proposal, dubbed his "9-9-9" plan.
Cain said he would be "very comfortable" with Romney, too, but that both candidates carry negatives that would be attacked by President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Cain dropped out of the race in early December. He said he wouldn't run again, joking that his "biological clock is ticking."
UPDATE 2/5/12 (7:30p.m.)
Representatives for both Herman Cain and the Tea Party Express have been in contact with The Blaze, and say that previous reports that Cain's endorsement of Newt Gingrich came at the behest of the conservative organization are false.
"Because he was with us for the State of the Union response a couple of days before, I guess it was worthy of speculation," Tea Party Express Co-founder Sal Russo wrote in an email regarding the suggestion that his organization influenced Cain's decision. "We believed that he was sticking with his support of 'we the people.'
"Since we have not endorsed a candidate for President, we certainly wouldn’t have been advocating for any of the candidates."
Tea Party Express Communications Director Shawn Callahan told The Blaze Sunday that his organization had no conversations with Herman Cain regarding his endorsement of any candidate.
Kathy Hoekstra, Director of Media Relations for Cain's Solutions Revolution, told The Blaze by phone Sunday that while Mr. Cain espouses and promotes many of the ideas of the Tea Party, his decision to endorse Mr. Gingrich was made independently.