Former New York Gov. George Pataki is giving serious consideration to seeking the Republican presidential nomination, his spokesman told the Daily News.

Pataki, who was governor from 1995-2006, had hinted in recent weeks that he might run, but this was the first official confirmation of his plans. NY1 reported that Pataki would make an announcement as early as next week.

Although the first primary isn't until early next year and the general election is well over a year away, the field of candidates has already been largely established. Prominent candidates like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have been fund-raising and campaigning all summer, and this head start could be a serious obstacle to other candidates looking to enter the race now.

Pataki may draw some hope from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who officially declared his candidacy less than two weeks ago but has already established himself as a frontrunner for the nomination. But Pataki may find it more difficult than Perry did to gain a foothold at this late date, because while Perry is an incumbent with national name recognition and can argue that it's his actions as governor that have kept Texas' economy afloat, Pataki hasn't held public office for nearly five years -- and isn't well known among voters in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Also, while Pataki has publicly criticized President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and his handling of the recent debt-ceiling crisis, he has a reputation as a relatively moderate Republican from his time as governor of New York. He is also pro-choice and a strong supporter of same-sex marriage -- two hot-button issues for an increasingly conservative Republican electorate.

Pataki the first two years was great; then we went on a spending binge, New York Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan told the Daily News. The federal debt run-up was rivaled only by what we did in New York under George Pataki.

The current Republican frontrunners, especially Bachmann and Perry, have essentially been engaged in a contest over who can move the furthest to the right. Pataki has indicated that he wants to offer a more moderate alternative. However, center-right candidates like Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, have fared poorly, with poll numbers consistently in the single digits.