updated 5/12/2011 8:47:47 AM ET 2011-05-12T12:47:47

Republican Newt Gingrich, the former leader of the House of Representatives known for his combative speech and turbulent tenure in Congress, formally announced Wednesday that he will attempt a political comeback by running for president.

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In a post on Twitter Wednesday, made official what has been an open secret for months: "Today I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States."

Gingrich officially announces presidential bid

Gingrich joins the race amid a shifting political landscape, altered 10 days ago when President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.

Obama's approval rating hit its highest point in two years, 60 percent, and more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday.

Story: Poll: Economy fears temper Obama's bin Laden bump

In 1994 Gingrich led Republicans to their first majority in the House in four decades and then served four tumultuous years as speaker, as the House leader is known.

Gingrich later acknowledged having carried on an affair with a congressional aide, now his third wife, at the same time he was criticizing President Bill Clinton for his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich's marital history could mean trouble with conservative Christians who turn out in big numbers for the party's nominating primaries.

Story: Gingrich's third wife to take central role in presidential bid

As speaker, Gingrich made the sort of deals that current conservative activists say they disdain: creation of a new health care benefit program as part of a balanced budget agreement with Clinton, for example.

The 67-year-old former Georgia congressman will be among the oldest candidates — if not the oldest — in a still-forming Republican field of politicians with far more recent political experience. Among those considering bids are Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, two darlings of the ultraconservative Tea Party movement.

'Better American future ahead'
In a YouTube video, Gingrich assures viewers, "There's a much better American future ahead with more jobs more prosperity, a better health system, longer lives, greater independent living and a country that is decentralized under the 10th Amendment with power once again back with the American people and away from the Washington bureaucracy."

First Thoughts: The Republicans' flawed field

Gingrich struck a combative tone, too, saying at one point: "There are some people who don't mind if America becomes a wreck as long as they dominate the wreckage." He also said, "We Americans are going to have to talk together, work together, find solutions together and insist on imposing those solutions on the forces that don't want to change."

In an interview on Fox News, he came out swinging against Obama, accusing the Democrat of using "scare tactics" to attack a Republican budget proposal and the party's views on immigration reform.

"President Obama should be ashamed of himself," Gingrich said.

He assailed Obama's foreign policy as "a very, very discouraging mess" and labeled his energy policy "anti-American."

Tumultuous end to career in House
After a party setback in the November 1998 elections, Gingrich announced abruptly he would be stepping down as speaker and, though re-elected by his district in Georgia, would retire from the House. He left in the face of a leadership challenge, with some Republicans disillusioned with his temperament.

During his speakership Gingrich was reprimanded by the House in 1997 and agreed to pay a $300,000 assessment for the costs of an investigation into questions about the political use of a tax-exempt college course he offered.

Gingrich had been publicly flirting with the race for months and sparked stories about his candidacy days before the official announcement.

He said Monday he would seek the Republican nomination, telling fans to tune into Fox News, where he had been a paid commentator for years, to hear a talk about his presidential run.

Story: Big GOP donors adopt wait-and-see 2012 tack

One of the best-known images of Gingrich from his days as speaker was the New York Daily News cover depicting him in a diaper pitching a tantrum after being barred from sitting up front with President Clinton on Air Force One while returning from Israel. And his latest outbursts have raised eyebrows, including when he compared a mosque that was to open near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center towers in New York to Nazis putting a sign next to the Holocaust Museum.

As he geared up for a campaign, Gingrich allies have privately urged him to tone down the bomb-throwing rhetoric, arguing he should strive to be seen as the adult in the room presenting the battle-tested big ideas rather than a conservative firebrand.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Who will face Obama in 2012?

  1. Closed captioning of: Who will face Obama in 2012?

    >> and our political director. chuck, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> we got to tweet on wednesday, newt gingrich is in and as michael pointed out there's some baggage. let's talk about the other side. this is a guy who's cultivated the ideas as an ideas guy. he raised $32 million between 2009 and 20010 that dwarves what the other potential candidates have raised combined so what are his chances?

    >> look. his chances depend on who else gets into the race at this point. he's sort of this guy that sits out -- reminds me of joe biden and chris dodd during the 2008 race. he's there if everybody else falters. he could be the guy that is the best debater. he may do very well in the debates. he's very good at that. he's very good in the media, very quick wit and can look like the smartest guy in the room. the problem for begin grish besides the personal issues is going to be that of all the candidates that are likely to run, he's going to look like the most washington candidate. this is not the year to look like a washington candidate.

    >> you talk about mitt romney . a lot of people think he will run. hoe's going to give a speech on health care . this is an achilles' heel. he's a guy who passed a health care law strikingly similar to the obama health care law that republicans hate. how is he going to get past this issue?

    >> one thing that the romney folks are doing is trying to talk about it and distance themselves before he formally announces. so he's doing a speech today in michigan, and in talking with folks around romney , they say, look, after this speech they hope that republicans see that he is for repealing president obama 's health care plan and he's got an idea to replace it. the problem for romney is an issue for a lot of these tea party conservatives isn't the fact that somehow obama's health care plan and romney 's health care plan are similar. the problem is that he was for this mandate even in the state of massachusetts . tea party republicans don't want them telling republicans what to do whether on the federal level or the state level.

    >> let me talk about donald trump . he fell considerably in the polls over the week. made a comment. he said he had no idea he was going to get hammered as much as he got hammered the last couple of weeks. i thought all signs were leading for him running for president. do we see some reconsideration now?

    >> what's interesting is we're not hearing from him as much in the last couple of weeks. he's not calling up reporters complaining about his coverage anymore. it seems that this has been a passing fancy for him. he realizes that this has probably been destructive to his brand. the president embarrassed him frankly at the white house correspondents dinner sitting in the audience. it wasn't just him but the other comedian up there as well. he takes all this stuff personally, matt. you know it well. i know it well. this thing seems to be done and frankly it's not a surprise. it's just a surprise it happened so fast.

    >> or he could surprise us and keep going with it. you never know with donald trump and we shouldn't try to predict his future.

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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