Washington (CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will announce Thursday that he is launching a committee to explore a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, a Republican familiar with the plans told CNN.
Gingrich's decision to form an exploratory committee and officially "test the waters" makes him the first major Republican contender to enter the presidential race.
Thanks to a national profile from his days as House Speaker and a reputation for delivering headline-grabbing broadsides against Democrats, Gingrich is among four Republican contenders who regularly finish atop national polls that survey Republicans about their choice for the GOP nomination in 2012.
In CNN's most recent national poll, Gingrich polled at 10 percent, landing him in fourth place behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Gingrich, who served in Congress for 20 years until his retirement in 1999 after four as House Speaker, has made noise about running for president in the past. But his activities in recent years have marked him as a more serious prospect in 2012.
His policy group American Solutions, a 527 group that can solicit unlimited corporate and individual contributions unlike the political action committees favored by the rest of the potential 2012 candidates, took in more than $14 million in 2010.
Much of that total financed Gingrich's robust travel schedule as well as the group's political activities, including a nationwide series of training sessions for conservative activists during the 2010 midterm cycle.
Gingrich has made repeated visits to the early caucus and primary states that play an outsized role in determining the nominee, particularly Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses, and South Carolina.
Will Rogers, the former chairman of the Des Moines-area Polk County Republican Party, told CNN that Gingrich is certain to run "a high level campaign operation here" if he decides to move beyond the exploratory phase.
"My feeling is that he looks like he is somebody who is going to run," said Rogers, who has known Gingrich for six years and plans to work for him if he embarks on a full-fledged candidacy. "He is doing the things that people need to do in order to become a frontrunner in the state of Iowa."
When he makes the formal announcement on Thursday, Gingrich will become the second prominent Republican to form an exploratory committee after former radio host Herman Cain, a popular figure among grassroots conservatives and Tea Party activists.
The Federal Election Commission lists several guidelines, some of them vague, for the presidential exploratory phase. But according to the FEC, when a potential candidate's exploratory committee raises or spends more than $5,000, he or she is no longer "testing the waters" and must register as a candidate.
Gingrich is a currently under contract with Fox News as a political analyst. CNN reached out to Fox News seeking comment about whether Gingrich will still be employed while exploring a 2012 bid, but a spokesperson for Fox News has not yet responded.
UPDATE: Gingrich will make the announcement in Atlanta, where he is slated to meet with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
What's to explore? Gingrich is a narcissistic idiot. Nobody wants him anywhere near any elected office.
Great ideology. Great communicator. No integrity. Not electable. Don't run.
God help us.
The "man" is dangerous and unethical.
i foresee yet another 'contract with america'. goody for us. NOT
Please stop my sides are hurting!! Newt for prez your killing me!!! :) :0 :)
Another WHITE EMPTY crackhead for the White House? This RACIST EVIL White man who took away school lunches from POOR American school children so that he cut the deficit of USA and to balance the so-called budget. This HYPOCRITE preaches so-called "FAMILY VALUES & RELIGION" yet, was daily having sex with other women whilst STILL married. The last time I checked, he has divorced 3-times already. Hey, this is America, they voted one dumb delusional idiot as president who could hardly read Basic English or speak his own mother’s tongue or language (aka English). The basic word “Nuclear” is STILL like a lemon in his mouth. Still can’t overcome these basic mental deficiencies. Thinking dumb white Americans should have learned from these mistakes; they turned around and voted crazy idiotic corrupt PUNKS back into the congress and the house to send the country BACK to the days of primitivism and backwardness for their RACIST detained HATE for an intelligent smart president. I thank the Heavens above for our intelligent, smart President Obama. Just look at what is happening in Wis. and other crazy RACIST republican states and you will have your answers why Americans are this dumb.
Eat your heart out, EVIL CRAAAAZZZZZZZY Newt, President Obama REINS Supreme above ALL republican leaders put together DEAD or ALIVE!
Fat chance in hell Newt. Fat change... fat.
Please donate your money to Wisconsin Governor so that teachers can educate our children. Do now waste yours, right wing, teaparty members etc money. With you and Sara Palin the RNC has lost the 2012 already.
The republicans run for office promising to promote family values and are caught cheating on their wives.
They run for office promising jobs and now they are trying to eliminate the estate tax, they want to enforce the Defense of marriage act (which is being challenged in court), they want to stop all abortions, they want to make sure the subsidies for big oil are not cut (if this bit of government spending is cut it is like a new tax....), they want to get involved in Libya, they wan to get involved n the politics of Egypt, they want to make sure the wealthiest have their tax cuts, they want to cut funding for public radio, they want to cut education funding and shut down the government – but no jobs yet.
This is what Newt will do in office. He will campaign to get into office promising anything he thinks will help him.
Once in he would do whatever he feels like and not feel any responsibility to the people who elected him.
The lip-smacking from Dems is growing in volume . . . . . .
just with the fact he thinks this is a possibility shows how out of touch and freakish the GOP has become.
I truly wish Chris Christie would run – he would put everyone to shame. Many people are better than the person we have running the country now.
hahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! he didn't have enough juice to run when he wa sIN office, but he thinks he does now? what party, tea bagger?? ha!
Yo failed under Clinton as house leader and u will do the same as POTUS... Obama '12
Newt – If I cared about you I would tell you FORGET IT!
Since I don't – I want you to feel free to bring your self-important superego and come help form the wacky circular firing squad, known as the GOP hopeless hopefuls!
Come on Newt. Embarrass yourself one more time!
What a nasty bunch you commenters all are. Get a life.
Do we want this man as president?? A man that disgraced himself in the House. A man who could not keep his marriage vows, not once, but many times. We don't need this type as a President of these United States!
He has my vote. Conservatives must win on the US will be a distant memory.
Newt is the only one who does not know he's a has-been.
Must be a money making venture for Newt.
Be prepared to change flats on your big ego trip, Newt!!
When you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the Republican Party to come up with a candidate, you have to be desperate. He would win if he was running for Philanderer in Chief. As Charlie Brown would say, "Good Grief".
The GOP has a big problem..They need a winner, and if Newt is their champion, then they can rest assured that the White House will stay democratic 6 years or more. Newt? For crying out loud...go back to your cold miserable pond...
I think that is good that he wants to run. Better chances for Obama.
Hey Newt, how can you have the nerve to run? You triple face hypocrite: badgering Clinton for his (obvious) indiscretion while you were two-timing your your wife. AND dropping off your divorce papers on her hospital bed. Nice guy. (What;s in store for wife number three?) And your "Transcript with America" campaign was a real gamer: the only time the government went bankrupt. Good cure, that. You pompous, self-serving bureaupig. Go back to writing fiction, just don't spill any spaghetti-o's on the keyboard.