GINGRICH EYEING PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN?…. This would offer all kinds of entertaining possibilities, but I don’t see it happening.

Newt Gingrich, the conservative former Speaker of the House, didn’t rule it out tonight in Ashland, before he was to address a packed house of 650-plus at Randolph-Macon College.

“Callista and I will look seriously and we’ll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011, Gingrich told reporters during a sit-down interview before last night’s speech.

“We’ll look seriously at whether or not we think it’s necessary to do it. And if we think it’s necessary we’ll probably do it. And if it isn’t necessary we probably won’t do it.”

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe him. I don’t think he has any intention of running for president, in 2012 or any other cycle, and I’m fairly certain Gingrich knows he could never win a national election.

We’ve been through this a few times. Gingrich was “supposed” to run in 1996. And 2000. On Sept. 27, 2007, the former House Speaker told supporters that he’d run for president if they pledged $30 million over a three-week period. Just 48 hours later, Gingrich scrapped the whole idea. This 2012 talk is more of the same.

He does this, of course, because he enjoys the attention, and believes his bizarre ideas will carry more weight if reporters perceive him as a likely presidential candidate. (Gingrich can also charge more on the lecture circuit if people think he might run.)

The talk and associated speculation is probably pointless. Newt Gingrich was thrown out of Congress by his own Republican caucus. His claim to fame is having shut down the government (twice). He’s widely unpopular with the electorate, embraces a strange far-right agenda, and has a rather humiliating personal life. Despite rumors of intellectual prowess, Gingrich’s “big ideas” include giving laptops to the homeless, touting the benefits of an old-school model of orphanages, and criticizing the notion of women serving in combat roles because “males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.”

Newt Gingrich is about as credible a presidential aspirant as I am.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.