Less than two weeks ago, Herman Cain told the world he would not back an actual Republican candidate, but was endorsing “We The People” for President. Then he set off on a quixotic tour to bring his signature 9-9-9 tax plan to a legislator near you, and drove off into political oblivion in a bus with his face on it.
But now The Hermanator is back. The former pizza titan popped up in Florida this weekend to endorse Newt Gingrich, and has spent the past few days there rallying the grassroots troops in the leadup to the state’s all-important Republican primary.
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 organisations 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.
That Cain would bow to the will of the Tea Party is not surprising, given the movement’s role in propelling him to political stardom. Many political observers have long expected Cain to endorse Gingrich, noting their longstanding ties (Gingrich has been praising Cain since the 1990s).
As we reported earlier this month, Cain initially optly not to support any presidential candidate who did not endorse the 9-9-9 tax plan, apparently operating under the delusion that he and his catchy tax plan could make some sort of solo comeback.
So does that mean that Gingrich has agreed to get on board with 9-9-9? Or did Herman Cain sell out his beloved 9-9-9 to the Tea Party?
It is not clear. In conjunction with Cain’s endorsement Saturday, the Gingrich campaign announced that the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO would co-chair Gingrich’s Tax Reform and Economic Growth Advisory Council. And explaining his decision to accept the position, Cain wrote in a blog post yesterday that he accepted the position because “my bold 9-9-9 tax reform plan is a serious consideration for Gingrich.”
The Gingrich campaign does not deny Cain’s claim.
“Speaker Gingrich is open to any kind of tax reform and is certainly willing to accept 999 as one of those options,” a spokesman for the campaign wrote in an email to Business Insider today.
But sources close to the Gingrich campaign told Business Insider that they can’t imagine a scenario in which Gingrich would actually endorse 9-9-9.
Either way, Gingrich and Cain appear to have linked their political survival to one another, at least for the moment. But it might be too late to change either man’s losing fate.
UPDATE, 2/4/12, 1:05 p.m.:
Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist of the Tea Party Express, tells Business Insider that the organisation “had no conversations with Herman Cain regarding his endorsement of any candidate
“Because he was with us for the SOTU response [State of the Union Tea Party response] a couple of days before, I guess it was worthy of speculation,” Russo wrote in an email. “Since we have not endorsed a candidate for President, we certainly wouldn’t have been advocating for any of the candidates.”