Herman Cain speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
Reporting from Charleston, S.C. —
Herman Cain seems to be having something of a Sarah Palin moment.
The retired pizza chain executive, who enjoyed a brief but intense flash of political fame last fall when he shot into the lead as a Republican presidential candidate, thrust himself back into the spotlight Wednesday with an "unconventional" endorsement in the GOP primary race.
"Here is my unconventional endorsement," he said in an appearance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Charleston, S.C. "Not a candidate seeking the nomination, not someone that's not running. My unconventional endorsement is the people. We the people of this nation are still in charge."
Cain dropped out of the presidential race amid persistent allegations of sexual misconduct. At the time, he promised he wasn't going away. Now he's back.
A leading tea party organization announced Thursday that Cain would deliver the tea party rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address next week. And he will appear Friday at a rally hosted by satirist Stephen Colbert, who is taking his act to South Carolina in advance of the first-in-the-South primary.
To be fair, it was Colbert who baited Cain back into the spotlight.
Colbert's "super PAC" -- which he turned over to fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart to avoid running afoul of federal campaign finance rules -- is up with an ad that urges South Carolina voters to vote for Cain as an indication of their support for Colbert, who missed the deadline to join the ballot.
"Together, these two unique voices will declare that they are the same man," reads the statement from "Colbert's ‘campaign.'" "Indeed, if you close your eyes and don't listen, they are hard to tell apart."
Cain is in on the joke.
"I find it very clever and humorous, as it should be," he told Fox411. "Anyone who finds what Mr. Colbert is doing offensive should simply lighten up. To be perfectly clear, I will not be assuming Stephen Colbert's identity. We are very different when it comes to the color of our – hair."
Cain said Thursday that he would eventually endorse an actual candidate ... just not yet.
"If I make an endorsement of a specific candidate right now, it might split my support," he said. "I want my people and my supporters to remain inspired."