CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of ex-Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer's 1991 exit from politics. He came in third in a primary open to both parties and wasn't included on the general election ballot.
In a year when a Washington résumé does not appear to be a campaign asset, two former members of Congress are jump-starting the 2012 presidential campaign: ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and ex-Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
Gingrich's much-hyped appearance today delivered little information that wasn't already known after a week of leaks and speculation about his decision to launch an exploratory presidential bid, meaning that he can begin to collect campaign contributions.
"We will look at this very seriously, move very methodically to lay out the framework of what we'll do next," he said. "The key is to have citizens who understand this is going to take a lot of us for a long time working together."
In an appearance with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Gingrich deviated briefly from the topic--states' rights under the Constitution--to announce the creation of a website for his fledgling presidential effort. He ended the session quickly, walking away from reporters' shouted questions.
"I think you have more than enough to write about," he said.
Gingrich and Roemer are the first presidential hopefuls with extensive political experience to make their ambitions official. Neither has held office since the 1990s.
By far the more formidable candidate of the two, Gingrich made his announcement in Atlanta, near the Georgia congressional district that was his first political power base. As a member of a House that Democrats had dominated for decades, Gingrich engineered the "Republican revolution" that gave his party the majority in 1995. Four years later, his tenure as House speaker ended with his abrupt resignation amid a conservative mutiny over his ethical controversies and management style.
Even so, Gingrich remains a force in GOP politics. He has a major fundraising apparatus and has been running an undeclared presidential campaign since at least last year. As the first major presidential hopeful to make it official, he could prompt the beginning of the end of what so far has been an under-the-radar contest.
With his contract as a TV commentator for Fox News suspended on Wednesday because of his impending presidential bid, Gingrich enters the race third or fourth in most major polls, aided by his near-universal name recognition among GOP voters. He received the third-most support, 13 percent, among all candidates in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday, behind former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.
The survey didn’t even mention Roemer, who has quietly plotted a run for president from his home base of Baton Rouge, La.
Roemer has been out of politics since 1991, when he came in third in a primary open to both parties and wasn't included on the general election ballot. Before that, he was a Democratic House member from 1981 to 1988.
The Harvard-educated Roemer has run a small bank in Baton Rouge since leaving politics.
At a press conference, Roemer said he’s “going to challenge the current system of politics from Day One” by refusing any contribution over $100 from individuals and taking no money whatsoever from PACs. His message centered on criticism of special-interest money. He described donations from both Wall Street and labor unions as corrupting.
“I’m a reformer by nature,” the ex-governor said. “Those of you know me know that’s true.”
Lindsey Boerma and Reid Wilson contributed