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Presidential election 2012: Can Newt Gingrich overcome his negatives?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is expected to announce this week the formation of an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential election, a first step toward a full-fledged campaign.

In this Feb. 10 file photo, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington.

Alex Brandon/AP/File

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At last, a serious contender. Newt Gingrich looks set to become the first major candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

The former House speaker from Georgia will announce formation of an exploratory committee before the end of the week, according to spokesman Rick Tyler. That means Mr. Gingrich can engage in limited campaign-like activities, such as polling, without registering as a full-fledged candidate. But really, in most cases, the “explore” announcement is just a station on the way to a full-fledged presidential election campaign.

Mr. Gingrich brings big positives and big negatives to the table.

On the plus side: He is already well-known to Republicans as a true-blue conservative, coauthor of the Contract With America, and leader of the 1994 GOP revolution that swept Democrats out of House control for the first time in 40 years. He is a compelling speaker, bursting with energy and ideas. And he is a veritable fundraising machine: He has outraised all his potential competitors with a political committee, including former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Sarah Palin of Alaska, according to a Washington Post analysis published Feb. 16.

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