Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is returning to South Carolina Thursday to headline the Spartanburg Republican Party's Bronze Elephant Dinner.
Gingrich has appeared in the "First-in-the-South" presidential primary state repeatedly in the last year, most recently in October, when he hosted a crowded town hall in Greenville just before Election Day.
The potential presidential contender gave an interview to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal ahead of Thursday's trip and spoke warmly of Gov.-elect Nikki Haley, who can expect to be courted by each and every Republican seeking the White House in 2012.
Gingrich said Haley "is going to be seen as a real reformer."
"Her success story, the way she won the primary, the way she came back to win the general (election), the fact that – in many ways – she is building on Gov. Sanford's efforts to reform the state, but doing so in a more inclusive way," Gingrich told the paper. "I think it's going to be fascinating to watch."
The Spartanburg GOP, one of the most influential county party organizations in the state, has already hosted Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of whom are laying groundwork for presidential runs.
Thursday's event was first reported by CNN.