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Newt Gingrich on the verge of announcing 2012 presidential bid

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), speaks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC), on February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. The CPAC annual gathering is a project of the American Conservative Union. Getty Images/Mark Wilson

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may be the first high-profile Republican presidential contender to formally jump into the 2012 race.

"We have said for weeks now that Newt will decide whether or not to move to an explore phase by late February/early March," Gingrich's spokesman Rick Tyler told the Associated Press. "We are sticking to that schedule."

A source close to Gingrich confirmed to CBS News that he will make an announcement soon.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the former Georgia congressman will announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee by March 8.

Gingrich is on the short-list of expected contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, but so far, the only candidate to officially announce his plans to run has been former Godfather's Pizza CEO and relative unknown Herman Cain.

While Gingrich, by contrast, is a familiar face, he's sought in recent months to refurbish his image as a leader within the Republican party, taking on a combative position against President Obama and his agenda. At the high-profile Conservative Political Action Conference last month, he challenged the very existence of the Environmental Protection Agency. In a recent op-ed, he encouraged Republicans to let Democrats blink first over a possible government shutdown.

The former speaker has also sought to build a relationship with conservative voters, traveling to early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire, while broaching the subject of his multiple marriages and past extramarital affair in the context of his Christianity.

A Gallup poll released last week showed that Republicans and Republican-leaning voters have no clear favorite out of the potential 2012 nominees. Gingrich received support from 9 percent of respondents, trailing former Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Sarah Palin of Alaska.

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