The onetime college professor is one of the few old conservative hands seeking the Republican Party's nomination next year in a field marked mostly by relatively fresh faces. While Romney and Pawlenty were unknowns 10 years ago, Gingrich has been a pivotal figure in the conservative movement since leading the party to historic gains in the 1994 mid-term election, an election that installed him as speaker of the House.
That history with the GOP is both a strength and weakness for the 67-year-old Gingrich, who even rivals concede is an ideas factory and accomplished political strategist. His longtime leadership role has helped him develop an impressive rolodex of supporters across the country, one that helped him build an empire
after leaving office in 1999. And at a time when entitlement reform is once again a major issue, the former speaker can tout welfare reforms he pushed through Congress while in office.
But Gingrich could struggle to convince many Republican voters that a man who reached his political peak nearly 20 years ago isn't yesterday's news, especially at a time when many activists are seeking a fresh start for the party. He also faces questions over his personal past after two acrimonious divorces, a history that will hinder him with social conservatives who make up a large voting bloc in early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina.
-- Updated at 11:30 a.m.