Gingrich formally launches 2012 bid

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich formally launched his 2012 campaign for president Wednesday with a tweet directing supporters to an announcement video on his campaign website.

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"Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States," Gingrich tweeted Wednesday afternoon. 

His first interview as an official 2012 candidate is set for 9 p.m. Wednesday with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

In a video posted on his campaign website, Gingrich touted his record as Speaker and said he is running "because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity."    

"For four years we balanced the budget and paid off $405 billion in debt," Gingrich said in an announcement that didn't mention President Obama by name. "We've done it before. We can do it again." 

Back in March, Gingrich announced a testing-the-waters effort, which allowed him to start raising money for a potential presidential bid. But he declined to officially jump in the race, citing the need to untangle himself from a vast network of nonprofit groups.

The Georgia Republican has built an expansive grassroots and fundraising network since leaving Congress. Led by his American Solutions PAC, which donated to dozens of GOP candidates during the 2010 cycle, Gingrich boasts several other nonprofit groups, including American Solutions for Winning the Future and The Center for Health Transformation. 

The latest USA Today/Gallup poll on the race for the GOP nomination found Gingrich running fourth.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and real estate mogul Donald Trump were tied at the top with 16 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 13 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 10 percent. Gingrich was tied with Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), at 6 percent.

While Gingrich enjoys sky-high name recognition with GOP voters, he also has some of the highest negatives among the current crop.

As Speaker, budget battles with former President Clinton led to a government shutdown, and the GOP majority at the time got the lion's share of the blame from voters as Gingrich's ratings plummeted.   

Gingrich has two stops on his schedule Friday, a morning event in Washington, D.C., and an evening speech to Republicans in Georgia, where he'll base his 2012 campaign.