ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
UPDATED: At a press conference in Atlanta on Thursday Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, took his first steps toward a presidential campaign saying that he was deeply concerned "for the future of our country."
"We will look at this very seriously and we will very methodically lay out the framework of what we'll do next," Gingrich said in brief remarks at an event with Georgia GOP Gov. Nathan Deal. "And we think its key to have citizens that understand this is going to take a lot of us for a longtime working together."
As anticipated, Gingrich stopped short of announcing a formal presidential exploratory committee, but instead pointed supporters to a new Web site, newtexplore2012.com that features a note from he and his wife, Callista. (The site notes it is paid for by Newt Exploratory 2012).
"We are a nation like no other. To remain so will require the dedicated participation of every citizen, of every neighborhood, of every background. This is the responsibility of a free people," reads a message from the couple on the site. "We are excited about exploring whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for President of this exceptional country."
Just hours before the news conference Gingrich appeared to scoop his own announcement, telling Georgia talk radio host Martha Zoller about the Web site that signals the beginning of the exploratory phase of his bid for the 2012 Republican nomination.
“Callista and I are prepared to see if there are enough folks who want to get this country back on the right track,” he said on the radio show. “It’s a great challenge but it’s one that we both take very, very seriously both as citizens and behalf of our grand children and all the young people of America.”
Gingrich plans to start raising money more aggressively and, as many expect, an official announcement of his candidacy could be coming soon.
“Callista and I promised, as you know, for well over a year that we would make a decision in late February or early March and we have kept our promise,” Gingrich told Zoller. “We will have a Web site up later on today, people can go to it. It’s newtexplore2012.com and it’s an effort to reach out to folks and say if we really want to get back to being a country of American exceptionalism and we really want to create jobs competing with Germany and China and India and we really want to shrink government, get power out of Washington, balance the federal budget and we really want to have a stronger national and homeland security so we’re safer. Lots of folks are going to have to decide if that’s a project they want to be engaged in.”
Gingrich did little to elaborate on the opening phase of his campaign, taking only a single question at the news conference and telling reporters in the room: "I think you'll have more than enough to write about" in coming days.
Listen to a full clip of Gingrich's exchange with radio host Martha Zoller.
Watch Gingrich's announcement: