WASHINGTON -- Republican officials say former House Speaker Newt Gingrich intends to take a formal step in the next two weeks toward a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

He would be the first of many potential contenders to make the move to challenge President Barack Obama.

The former Georgia congressman has been travelling to key primary and caucus states in recent months in the run-up to a campaign for the White House.

The officials say an announcement is likely in the first half of March. It is not clear what type of declaration he intends to make. Some White House hopefuls set up exploratory committees, while others simply announce their candidacy.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose Gingrich's plans.