For 16 years, Newt Gingrich has performed a solo performance art piece where he dances right up to the line of running for president, only to pull back at the last possible moment. For reasons that surpass my ability to understand them, this has only increased his overall mystique with the political press, which enables him to repeat this performance every four years.
But on Tuesday, it looked as if Gingrich was going to finally jump into the race, joining Herman Cain and Fred Karger as the third person vying for the 2012 GOP nomination to form an "exploratory committee," and the first man in the field who could be considered a serious contender. All day long, those that claimed to have knowledge of Gingrich's plans told everyone who would listen that the "exploratory committee" was a go.
Of course, there was always reason to be skeptical, and late Tuesday evening, the story that Gingrich was planning to get into the race suddenly changed. As CNN's Peter Hamby tweeted last night:
So, Gingrich was going down to Georgia to explore something, somewhere, tangentially related to running for president. Maybe some light spelunking? Perhaps related to something that Atlanta Journal-Constitution "political insider" Jim Galloway identified as "a possible conflict" between "Gingrich's private affairs, involving [the Gingrich-founded nonprofit] American Solutions, and his public aspirations." Possibly! Four years ago, it was the founding of American Solutions that foundered Gingrich's presidential plans.
Regardless, after taking this walk-back to bed last night, this morning we awake to the news that Team Gingrich is now walking back the walkback:
Newt is still expected to announce exploratory phase, despite conflicting statements yesterday http://bit.ly/esHqve
And in Hamby's story:
"Gingrich is not traveling to Georgia to announce that he will form 'an exploratory committee' as stated in the Des Moines Register," Tyler said. "To be clear, while Speaker Gingrich is in Georgia on Thursday, he will NOT announce the formation of an exploratory committee."
Despite the conflicting messages emerging from the Gingrich camp, the former House Speaker is nevertheless expected to make presidential news following his appearance with Deal at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday.
He is still likely to announce his intention to explore running for president on Thursday in Atlanta, but it appears he will not file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to form an actual committee.
Politico's Alex Burns appears to have made some firm sense of this on Wednesday morning:
One Republican with knowledge of the situation told Score that Gingrich is likely to confirm his "intention to announce," but not actually unveil an exploratory committee. ABC reports Gingrich may use the term "explore phase" rather than "exploratory committee" - another way of stopping short of a full-scale announcement. The reason: Untangling the web of business and political groups Gingrich is involved in has proven complicated and he's not in a position just yet to take a more formal step toward running.
That "formal step" would be "filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission": a step that Gingrich does not appear ready to take. Which basically means that for all intents and purposes, Gingrich's quadrennial dance of the seven veils continues.