Guy Benson
Alright, let me see if I've got this straight:  In early March, Team Newt announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee -- except, it turns out, it wasn't a real exploratory committee.  It was more of an exploration of an exploratory committee, which is why Gingrich was technically ineligible for last week's GOP debate.  Now, according to the Associated Press, Gingrich is set to skip the exploratory formality altogether and launch a full-fledged presidential campaign on Wednesday.  He will do so on social media outlets Facebook and Twitter:


A spokesman for Newt Gingrich says the former House speaker will announce Wednesday he is running for president. He will give an interview to Fox News later that night.  Gingrich will offer his first speech as a presidential candidate at the Georgia Republican Party Convention on Friday.



Newt all but confirmed these reports moments ago when he tweeted this teaser for an upcoming media appearance:


Be sure to watch Hannity this Wednesday at 9pm ET/8pm CT. I will be on to talk about my run for President of the United States @



That Gingrich would eventually run has been conventional wisdom for months, so I'm not sure how much this revelation impacts the 2012 picture -- aside from just making things official.  Team Newt beefed up its operation on Friday by hiring a campaign manager:


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has hired Rob Johnson to manage his presidential campaign, which is now very close to up-and-running. A well-known Texas strategist, Johnson ran Gov. Rick Perry’s 2010 reelection campaign. He was serving as Perry’s chief of staff until March, when he went to work for Gingrich.



The Wall Street Journal offers an interesting piece today documenting the emergence of "Newt Inc.," a network of Gingrich-branded political groups that has kept the prospective candidate's name top-of-mind while raising tens of millions of dollars in recent years:


As Mr. Gingrich prepares to launch a run for president as early as this week, this network of advocacy and for-profit groups is providing a publicity and policy machine without parallel among his likely Republican rivals, few of whom have stirred excitement among donors and activists.

His network has amassed more than 1.7 million voter and donor contacts and raised $32 million between 2009 and 2010—more than all his potential 2012 rivals combined.

Far less clear is whether these efforts, and the extent of his organizational infrastructure, will be enough to put him out front, should Mr. Gingrich decide to seek the presidential nomination.


Independent of one's thoughts of Newt Gingrich as a presidential candidate, the WSJ piece underscores why he will run a formidable, well-financed operation. No word yet on whether Newt (and Mitt Romney, for that matter) will participate in CNN's New Hampshire debate in early June, but I'd imagine there's a high probability that both "top tier" candidates will attend.


UPDATE:  Gingrich campaign spokesman Rick Tyler confirms to Townhall that Wednesday's announcement will, in fact, introduce a straight-up presidential campaign.  Newt will bypass the official exploratory stage altogether.  This distinction means that Newt will the first major candidate to formally announce a 2012 presidential bid.

UPDATE II: Is Herman Cain preparing an announcement of his own for later this month?  Sure sounds like it.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography