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John Bazemore, Associated Press
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., speaks as his wife Callista looks on during a meeting with Gov. Nathan Deal in the Governor's office Thursday March 3, 2011 in Atlanta. Gingrich said he is launching a website to explore a run for president.

ATLANTA — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced Thursday he is exploring a run for president and has launched a website to collect donations so he can gauge support.

The Republican stopped short of forming an exploratory committee, which would have made him a legal candidate.

Instead, Gingrich, speaking briefly with reporters in his old home state of Georgia, said he and his wife "will look at this very seriously and we will very methodically lay out the framework of what we'll do next."

Gingrich announced the launch of a website to accept donations within Federal Election Commission contribution limits. If he decides to run, all donations collected from the site will have to be reported.

"We are excited about exploring whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for president of this exceptional country," Gingrich says on the website, which features a photo of the former Georgia congressman and his wife, Callista, and provides links to social media sites.

At the Georgia Capitol, Gingrich sounded like a candidate, noting the state's unemployment rate is at a historic high and conflict in the Middle East could lead to a "catastrophic" increase in the cost of oil.

"We believe that America's best years are actually ahead of us," Gingrich said. "We believe that it is possible through the right policies with the right values to create dramatically more jobs with dramatically higher incomes."

Gingrich also spoke about cultural values and the right of every American "to pursue happiness as a reality, not just a false promise."

Gingrich is is doing what is known by the Federal Elections Commission as testing the waters.

That means the former Georgia congressman 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.

Earlier, Gingrich's spokesman Rick Tyler said Gingrich and his wife oversee a web of commercial and nonprofit ventures and must tie up some loose ends with those businesses before they can take that step of forming an exploratory committee.

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. That win 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.

Among the other potential Republican presidential contenders are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Gingrich met privately with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a key supporter, Thursday to talk about states rights under the 10th Amendment and what he said are increasing federal government mandates.

Gingrich ignored questions as he entered and exited the Capitol.


Associated Press Writer Ray Henry contributed to this report

Online: www.newtexplore2012.com