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Newt Gingrich moves toward presidential run

The former Republican House speaker is to announce Thursday the formation of an exploratory committee to determine his support for candidacy, according to political strategists close to him.

March 01, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Newt Gingrich is poised to become the first top-tier Republican to take steps toward a presidential run, with an announcement about his future planned in his home state of Georgia this week.

Political strategists close to the former House speaker say he is primed to pursue his presidential ambitions, and that the announcement will be the formation of an exploratory committee. They say the announcement, likely to come Thursday, will be deliberately low-key.

A spokesman for Gingrich declined to comment on Gingrich's plans. The office of Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Tuesday that he would meet with Gingrich on Thursday afternoon "to discuss how to reassert the importance of the 10th Amendment and identify overbearing federal regulations that cost Georgia money."

Gingrich is also scheduled to speak in Washington on Friday at the American Apparel and Footwear Assn. On Monday, he will head to Iowa, host of the first presidential caucuses, to speak at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference.

Polls have regularly shown that Gingrich is among the early front-runners in the race for the GOP nomination. A national Gallup poll of Republicans released last week showed him in fourth place, behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Neither of those three has made any formal moves toward setting up a formal campaign structure.

According to the Federal Election Commission, an exploratory committee enables prospective candidates to raise funds for "testing the waters" activities, usually trips around the country to determine if there is support for candidacy. Fundraising efforts are subject to federal limits.

Gingrich has already proven to be a prodigious fundraiser, having built up a network of half a dozen nonprofit and for-profit organizations. One of them, American Solutions, raised more than $24 million in the last election cycle to mobilize supporters around issues such as job creation and repealing the healthcare overhaul.

Gingrich represented Georgia in the House of Representatives for two decades, rising to the position of speaker after the GOP takeover in 1994 on the strength of the "Contract With America" he co-authored. He resigned after the 1998 elections in which Republicans lost seats.

The 2012 presidential sweepstakes has been slow to develop, unlike the 2008 race when neither party had an incumbent president or vice president seeking election. In that election, Obama launched his exploratory committee in January 2007, with others doing so even earlier.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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