Not a surprise, but this is as close as he’s gotten so far to a formal announcement.

In the last 24 hours, former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich has touched base with several prominent Republicans in his former home state, telling them that he intends to make a run for president in 2012 using Georgia as his base – and that he already has his eye on office space in Buckhead for a campaign headquarters…

The visits and conversations – some face-to-face, others on the phone — appear to be an attempt by Gingrich to revive his old campaign network and lock down as much support as possible in a state won by Republican Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential primary.

A spokeswoman for Johnny Isakson said Gingrich called the U.S. senator earlier this month – adding that Gingrich was not definite about his plans in that conversation. In an interview on Friday, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said he had not talked to Gingrich yet, but that the former U.S. House speaker had asked for an appointment in the near future. “He said, ‘I need a significant amount of your time,’” Chambliss said.

Follow the link for a brutal quote from Chambliss giving Newt the treatment Palin typically gets from Beltway Republicans, i.e. love ya, love ya, love ya, but you can’t win. Back in November, PPP asked supporters of each of the big four candidates who their second choice is in case their favorite doesn’t run. Gingrich didn’t make the cut for second place among any group; his best showing was drawing 20 percent of Palin’s supporters (compared to 24 percent for Huckabee) if she skips the race. Here’s an interesting data point for Palin fans, though, about Newt’s own supporters:

If Newt Gingrich doesn’t run the biggest beneficiary would be Mike Huckabee. 31% of Gingrich supporters say Huck is their second choice, followed by 27% who say it’s Mitt Romney and 19% who say it’s Sarah Palin.

A Gingrich candidacy actually helps her slightly since he’s drawing away more of Huck’s and Mitt’s potential supporters than hers. In fact, the AJC goes on to say in the piece quoted above that one of Newt’s objectives in shoring up support in Georgia is to head off Huckabee, who won the state in 2008 and stands to do well in the south generally. It’s strange to think of a wonk like Newt having to worry most about a guy whose biggest political asset, arguably, is his faith, but such are the vagaries of regional politics, my friends.

Here’s Human Events’s Jason Mattera interviewing Gingrich about Hopenchange turning into Clinton’s third term, which … sounds ominous given BJ’s record at the polls.