Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to take a further step toward a potential bid for the White House on Thursday, announcing an “intent” to form a committee that will allow him to raise money for a candidacy, an adviser said.

If he follows through, Mr. Gingrich would be the first major 2012 candidate to form a presidential exploratory committee. His decision in essence would start the race to pick a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama, as it is likely to trigger announcements from other potential candidates. It would also end a long period in which potential candidates have been building staffs, talking to fund-raisers and traveling to early-primary states, all without formally entering the fray.

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