By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Former presidential hopeful Herman Cain threw his support behind Newt Gingrich Saturday night, providing the former House speaker with a late boost just days before Florida's primary.
Cain, a tea party favorite, endorsed his fellow Georgian at a GOP fundraiser Saturday calling him "a patriot."
"Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas," Cain said.
The former pizza executive, who left the race before the first nominating contests after facing accusations of unwanted sexual advances, suggested the two have both undergone intense scrutiny.
"I know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder," Cain said. "I know what this sausage grinder is all about."
Cain is set to campaign with Gingrich on Monday in an 11th hour push for support. Gingrich is in a fierce fight for Tuesday's Florida's GOP primary with Mitt Romney. Gingrich on Saturday night said that, like Cain, he is running a campaign based on big ideas and bold solutions.
The decision was not unexpected but the announcement comes at a make or break moment. .
"I had it in my heart and mind a long time ago," Cain said.
The timing is similar to a Saturday night surprise four years ago, when then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed John McCain's presidential bid.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry also endorsed Gingrich when he bowed out of the race in South Carolina.
Since exiting the race in December, Cain appeared at a rally in South Carolina with late-night comedian Stephen Colbert.
Cain, the charismatic former head of Godfather's Pizza, briefly led in the polls in the fall. He became known for his signature 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan that would have scrapped the current tax code and replaced it with a 9 percent tax on individual income and corporate taxes as well as a new 9 percent national sales tax.
But his support plummeted after accusations that he sexually harassed women more than a decade ago when he led the National Restaurant Association. An Atlanta-area woman then stepped forward and said she had a lengthy sexual affair with Cain.
He denied the affair and any wrongdoing but withdrew from the race saying the accusations had become distracting and he needed to focus on his family.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)