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Atlanta Visit Fuels Speculation of Gingrich Presidential Bid

Newt Gingrich's visit to Atlanta today continues to fuel speculation on what he will say about a potential presidential bid.

Earlier this week, sources close to the former U.S. House speaker suggested he would likely announce an exploratory committee, following an afternoon meeting with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on a states' rights initiative. Tuesday evening, his spokesman emphatically denied such reports.

"To be clear, while Speaker Gingrich is in Georgia on Thursday, he will NOT announce the formation of an exploratory committee," Rick Tyler wrote in a news release.

Late Wednesday, Tyler offered further clarification. According to Tyler, the former speaker needs to resolve some business issues before setting up a formal exploratory committee. However, Gingrich will begin raising money to test the feasibility of a presidential candidacy and will talk about it during a news conference today at the Georgia Capitol, Tyler said.

"His style is to march forwards, march backwards, march to the left, march to the right," said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University. "If he's gonna do it, he needs to get his act together a lot better than he's done in the last two or three days."

Gingrich, was first elected to Congress in 1978 after two earlier unsuccessful bids.

"He did what would have (prevented) most losers from ever running again in politics," Black said. "So, there is a very strong fire in Gingrich to be the leader."

Gingrich rose to prominence in 1994, leading a Republican takeover of the House and co-authoring the GOP's "Contract with America." He became House speaker the following year.

"He's a natural born minority leader in the House," Black said. "But when he was in office as the architect of the Republican Party, he had lots of problems -- not only with other Republican leaders, but also with the rank and file. So, he only lasted four years as speaker."

While critics consider Gingrich to be a polarizing political figure, supporters praise the former Speaker's intellect and his skill at debating a wide range of issues.

In addition to his meeting with Georgia's governor, Gingrich's Thursday agenda includes events for the American Enterprise Institute, a policy think tank where he serves as a senior fellow, and his American Solutions political action committee.

His schedule in the upcoming days, which includes a March 7 stop in the early caucus state of Iowa and a March 17 event in the early primary state of New Hampshire, has all the trappings of someone seriously considering a presidential bid.

The question may not be so much IF Gingrich announces an exploratory committee, but WHEN he announces and, for that matter, HOW.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.