Cain to endorse Gingrich?

Will he or won’t he?  After Herman Cain “suspended” his presidential campaign over the weekend, rumors that a quick endorsement would follow today got bolstered by the addition of a press conference to Newt Gingrich’s schedule today.  Given the friendly accord between the two Republican contenders, such a move might be seen as inevitable:

Fox-5 in Atlanta, the same station that broke the Ginger White allegations, is reporting that Herman Cain is going to endorse Newt Gingrich on Monday. Gingrich’s camp put a late add of a press conference at 1:45 p.m. on his schedule.

And Gingrich just added a media availability to his schedule in New York on Monday, suggesting the likelihood the endorsement will be held in Manhattan.

Fox’s Atlanta affiliate reports that the endorsement will come today:

Sources tell FOX 5 News that Herman Cain plans to endorse fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich on Monday. They say details of a formal announcement are still being worked out.

A spokesperson with the Gingrich campaign said there is a 2 p.m. press conference in New York, which would follow a meeting with Donald Trump.

On the other hand, Fox’s national desk reports that Cain’s team denies any such endorsement is in the works:

A spokesman for Herman Cain on Monday denied a report that an endorsement is imminent even as a source told MyFoxAtlanta that the former Republican presidential candidate will offer his backing to former House speaker and fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich.

The source told the news outlet that last week broke the story of a longtime mistress — effectively sinking Cain’s campaign — that Cain is preparing to make the announcement Monday, but the details of the formal announcement are still being worked out.

Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon knocked down that report in a statement to Fox News, saying Cain is actually keeping his original campaign schedule — attending an Oklahoma City fundraiser, and will shoot some videos to accompany an energy policy rollout that Gordon said Cain plans to unveil soon.

“I’d ask them where they are getting their information?” Gordon said of the report. “We’ll keep you posted. Nothing to announce at this point.”

The idea of a Cain endorsement so soon after his “suspension” sounds a little hard to believe.  First, Cain has not formally withdrawn from the race yet, although it’s difficult to see how he would restart his candidacy.  An endorsement might create some problems at the FEC that his “suspension” allows him to avoid.  It’s no secret that the two Georgia natives are on very friendly terms, but Cain might want to hold off on making an endorsement until all of the other candidates have an opportunity to vie for it.  Traditionally, this means helping out with campaign debt, too, and it’s far from clear that Gingrich would be in a position to help Cain in that regard.

If Cain did endorse Gingrich, that would have some impact on the primary contest, but probably not as much as one might believe.  Cain’s support has dwindled to a small percentage of voters even in Iowa, and Cain isn’t even in Iowa at the moment. (Why did they have an Oklahoma event on the schedule in December?)  As Chris Cillizza notices from the two most recent polls in Iowa, Gingrich may already have benefited from Cain’s decline anyway — and he might have a lot more potential than these polls show, too:

In the NBC/Marist poll, Gingrich’s leads Romney among self-dentified “conservative” caucus-goers by 14 points; among those who call themselves “very conservative,” Gingrich’s edge over Romney is three to one (29 percent to 10 percent).

Why is that significant? Because in presidential primaries and caucuses, “true believers” — the most ideologically driven voters in each party — are by far the most likely to turn out on what will almost certainly be a cold day in early January.

There are other internal numbers that bolster Gingrich.

In the Register poll, 43 percent of likely caucus-goers name the former House Speaker as either their first or second choice. And, Gingrich is the preferred alternative to businessmanHerman Cain, who suspended his campaign on Saturday.(The Register poll was in the field before Cain’s suspension announcement.)

And, 54 percent of respondents in the NBC/Marist survey said that Gingrich would be acceptable as the Republican nominee for president while another 27 percent said they would find him acceptable with some reservations. Those numbers compare favorably to both Romney (46 percent acceptable/28 percent some reservations) and Paul (38 percent acceptable/34 percent reservations).

We’ll see whether Cain decides to endorse and whether that actually moves the needle any further in Gingrich’s direction.  From this point forward, though, it seems more likely that Gingrich will rise or fall on his own accord, rather than through any consolidation or opposition from the field itself.