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Cain endorses Romney (after already endorsing Gingrich and 'we the people')

WASHINGTON -- In a last-minute press conference outside the Capitol Hill Club here, Herman Cain made his third endorsement of this political cycle -- this time announcing his support for the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Flanked by Tea Party Congress members Michele Bachmann and Steve King, the one-time presidential front-runner -- remember that? -- cited a need for unity as the reason he chose to back Romney today. 

After leaving the race on Dec. 3, 2011, he first endorsed "we the people"; then Newt Gingrich; and now Romney.

"Let's say my endorsement evolved. And if the president can use that word, I can too," Cain told NBC News after the press conference, a reference to President Obama last week saying his views on gay marriage have evolved. "It's a process, so you make different decisions as the process converges."

Cain said he spoke to members of Romney's staff, whom he described as "ecstatic" to learn of his endorsement. But there are no clear plans for how the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza could help Romney going forward.  "We had already been talking about the role that I could best play in his campaign. One is surrogate speaking, which I’ve already been doing," he said.

Cain left the presidential race under a cloud of controversy after reports that multiple women complained he had sexually harassed them when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. As his campaign continued, so did the number of women who claimed to have been harassed by Cain. The final straw came when an Atlanta woman went public to say she had an affair with Cain that lasted more than a decade. The former candidate said the spotlight had taken a toll on his family that caused him to exit the race one month before the Iowa caucus.

Since leaving the race, Cain has stumped for Gingrich and promoted his new advocacy group "Cain Solutions," which advocates for Tea Party candidates and legislation.

Cain was in Washington to participate in a Tea Party panel discussion on Capitol Hill. Bachmann, also a former presidential candidate and founder of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives, recently endorsed Romney as a sign of support from the most conservative portion of the Republican Party.

It is the part of the base that Romney has had the most trouble with, because of concerns about his past views on the issues of spending and government-mandated health care.

"What Gov. Romney did in Massachusetts, I does [sic] not care," said Cain in response to a question over whether he is concerned that Romney's past positions conflict with Tea Party ideals.

Cain's sexual-harassment troubles would make a public appearance with Romney unlikely, but he did say he would be open to position in a possible Romney administration. And when it comes to a vice presidential pick, Rep. Allen West's straight-talking style and Rep. Paul Ryan's reputation as a "budget guru" top Cain's list, he said.

"It needs to be someone who brings some instant credibility and some instant excitement to the ticket... You don't have time to pick a candidate that you need to establish name ID, they need to have immediate name ID."

"Romney-Cain does have a ring to it...but I don't have stars in my eyes or this little voice in the back of my head saying 'You want to be vice president,'" he said. "No, I want to help save America, and I don't need to be president or vice president to do that."