TAMPA — Herman Cain has a message for conservatives disappointed to have Mitt Romney as their presidential nominee.
"Get over it. And focus on the mission," the former presidential contender told about 150 students at the University of South Florida on Thursday.
That mission is to ensure Republicans maintain control of the U.S. House, win a majority in the Senate and defeat President Barack Obama.
People lament to him regularly that their favorite candidate isn't the nominee, and he sympathizes: "Mine isn't either — me."
Cain, 66, dropped out of the presidential race in December, amid allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity — which he denied. He has kept a high profile, traveling the country and touting his "9-9-9" tax overhaul (9 percent flat tax on household income, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax).
On Thursday he spoke at USF and to the Republican Women Federated. He is scheduled to address the Hernando County Republican Party tonight.
Cain backed Newt Gingrich after dropping out of the primary but told the Tampa Bay Times he will work hard to help Romney now that he's the presumptive nominee.
Is he enthusiastic about Romney?
"I am very supportive, and I have said all along whoever gets the nomination, I will work hard to get that person elected. To say enthusiastic, that could mean a lot of things," Cain said, suggesting that Romney still has work to do to fire up the GOP base.
"He's going to have to do some healing and unifying. It's going to be work, but then he has surrogates out there like me and others to help in that regard."
Cain charmed the USF crowd with a largely nonpolitical speech about his rise from poverty to corporate success. Have a dream and set goals, he urged the students.
The USF College Republicans have only about 20 active members, and Cain offered some advice for spreading the conservative message across campus: "Don't waste your time with people who have liberal tendencies in the DNA. Save the saveable."
The accusations of infidelity and harassment seem to still sting. Cain said he dropped out of the race because "false allegations and lies … were tearing my family apart."
"In the court of public opinion, all they have to do is plant doubt,'' the onetime GOP frontrunner said. "The people who said I did certain things — they can't prove it. So how do I prove I didn't? ... If somebody said I was with them and had an affair, do I have a picture of me not being there? You can't disprove a negative."
Romney has some strong options for vice president, Cain said, mentioning Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation; and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.