AP: Gingrich to start testing presidential bid

FILE - In the Feb. 10, 2011, file photo, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The biggest obstacle to a Newt Gingrich presidential bid might be Gingrich himself. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

March 2, 2011 5:34:25 PM PST
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will begin raising money to test whether a bid for the GOP presidential nomination is feasible, his spokesman told The Associated Press Wednesday night.

Gingrich is set to talk about the step at a news conference Thursday at the state Capitol in his home state of Georgia where he has a meeting with the governor. Tyler told the AP that Gingrich "is entering the exploratory phase" of a presidential candidacy.

He is stopping short of setting up an exploratory committee, which would have made him a legal candidate. Gingrich and his wife, Callista, oversee a web of commercial and nonprofit ventures and must tie up some loose ends with those businesses before they can take that step, Tyler said.

However, "this is a serious exploratory phase," Tyler said.

Earlier Wednesday, Fox News Channel suspended the contracts of Gingrich and Rick Santorum, another on-air contributor, for two months as they explore possible White House runs.

The 67-year-old Gingrich is doing what is known by the Federal Elections Commission as testing the waters.

That means he can raise and spend money to hire staff and conduct polling to gauge how much support he would have for a presidential bid. He will only have to disclose his fundraising and spending if he ultimately jumps into the race.

Getting into the race would mark a comeback attempt for Gingrich, who led the Republican Party to a sweeping victory in the midterm elections of 1994. It gave the GOP a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Gingrich rose to House speaker in 1995, but was effectively ousted by his own party four tumultuous years later.

A spending fight between Gingrich and President Bill Clinton led to a shutdown of part of the federal government in 1995 and 1996. He left Congress in 1999. In recent years, he's stayed in the public eye speaking on issues from health care to foreign affairs.