By Justin Sink - 04/10/12 03:39 PM EDT
Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain — who previously endorsed Newt Gingrich — said Tuesday that "the numbers are on Mitt Romney’s side," and indicated he was planning to throw his support behind the GOP front-runner and presumptive nominee.
Cain, who led the GOP race late last year in many polls before a series of allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced, told Fox News on Tuesday that "it looks like Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee."
"I remind people all the time … [to] keep your eye on the mission. And the mission is to get control of the Senate, maintain control of the House, and defeat Barack Obama. That means get behind the nominee, so yes, I am ready to get behind the nominee."
Cain's comments are a further sign Republicans are coalescing behind the former Massachusetts governor.
Cain said that even though polls show President Obama holding a lead over Romney in a hypothetical general-election match-up, he thought the former governor could easily bridge the gap.
"I think that the numbers are close enough that that is a good sign for Mitt Romney if he ultimately gets the nominations, and here is why: because the president has used the office of the president to campaign and to pander to groups in order to give the perception that he is best fit to be president," Cain said.
"For example, they now advertise the earned income tax credit, telling people, 'come on down, get some more money.' The Agriculture Department advertises, encourages people to get on food stamps. It is pandering at its absolute worst. So when we have a nominee and they focus their advertising and their message very clearly and very bold and very specific, I believe that you are going to see those polls numbers change. So those do not bother me given the closeness of them right now."
While it's unclear how much influence Cain actually holds among Republican voters, his defection is symbolic of how Tea Party voters, with whom he has been popular, have shifted their support behind Romney's candidacy in recent weeks. A Pew Research Survey released Monday showed three-quarters of GOP voters believe Romney will become the nominee.
But the move also undermines the continued efforts of Gingrich, who has been pushing hard to justify his continued presence in the Republican race. On Monday, Gingrich told Fox News he was still planning to go all the way to the GOP convention in Florida.
"I am in here — I'm thinking of getting it tattooed up here, 'All the way to Tampa,' " he said, pointing to his forehead.
While Gingrich acknowledged over the weekend that Romney would "far and away most likely" be the nominee, the former House Speaker said he thought he still had a role in the Republican primary.