Former presidential candidate Herman Cain endorsed his fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich in a surprise appearance at the Palm Beach County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner Saturday.

"I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for president of the United States," Cain said in brief remarks before Gingrich spoke.


"I know what this sausage grinder is all about," said Cain, who surged to the top of the GOP polls before a wave of stories about sexual harassment allegations toppled his campaign. "I know he is going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the United States of America."

The former Speaker, who led the Florida polls after winning the South Carolina primary, has seen his numbers drop in the last week.

It is far from clear that Cain's backing will lead to a significant boost in support for Gingrich. The businessman's moment as the darling of grassroots conservatives was relatively brief.

But the Cain endorsement does at least give Gingrich something positive to boast about in the closing stretch of the primary campaign here. And that is particularly welcome at a time when Gingrich had stalled while Romney has surged into a significant lead in the Sunshine State.

"I had no idea it would be this interesting of an evening," Gingrich said as he took the podium.

Gingrich said he would ask Cain to chair a commission on fiscal issues for his campaign, similar to the commission that he assigned to Rick Perry, the Texas governor and formal rival for the nomination.

The Cain endorsement is sure to be a major topic of conversation when Gingrich appears on several political chat shows Sunday morning.

Last November, when Cain was first beset by the sexual allegations, he and Gingrich had a highly cordial 90-minute debate on the subject of entitlement reform.

Gingrich and Cain also share — with many of their party's grassroots supporters — a well-developed disdain for the media. Last November, Gingrich sympathized with Cain, who he said was the subject of "gossip". 

In the wake of Gingrich's fiery response during a recent South Carolina debate to a question about allegations made by one of his ex-wives Cain told Fox News that he "loved Newt Gingrich's response because that's the same crap that they pulled on me and that's what's wrong with politics."