Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is likely to confirm Thursday that he’s moving decisively toward a 2012 run, offering a jolt to what has been a slowly developing race for the White House.
After meeting with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), Gingrich is expected to confirm his intention to move toward the next phase of his decisionmaking process. He is not expected to form a presidential exploratory committee, which is usually interpreted as a clear signal that someone will be a candidate.
According to The Associated Press, Gingrich will confirm his intention to start raising money to help determine whether to move forward with a White House bid. Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler told the AP that the former Speaker is entering "the exploratory phase."
Gingrich's trip was preceded by conflicting reports over whether the former Speaker would officially jump into the 2012 race by announcing an exploratory committee.
After several news organizations reported earlier this week that Gingrich would announce the committee Thursday, a spokesman issued a public denial, noting that the Georgia event has been on Gingrich's schedule for months and that no official announcement was planned.
Not a single big-name Republican has formed an exploratory committee to this point. By comparison, both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had formed 2008 exploratory committees by November of 2006.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) are both widely expected to enter the 2012 race, and Gingrich's posture Thursday could prod them to action.
Gingrich is headed back to Iowa on Monday to speak at an event hosted by a social conservative group. He'll be joined by Santorum, conservative talk host Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R), who is expected to officially launch his bid for the GOP nod Thursday.