Gingrich tells OK lawmakers he'll reel in feds

By BRIAN BAKST | February 21, 2012 | 3:15 PM EST

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks on the floor of the Oklahoma State Legislature in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A once-powerful Washington figure himself, Newt Gingrich pledged Tuesday to state lawmakers in Oklahoma that he'd shrink the role of the nation's capital if sent back as president.

The Republican presidential candidate wrapped two days of campaigning in the state with an address to the Legislature. He asked lawmakers for input on which regulations to roll back and other ways to reverse what he sees as a federal incursion into state decisions.

"There's a lot deeper feeling in the country that Washington is doing too much, meddling too much, interfering too much and spending too much, micromanaging too much," Gingrich said before issuing his assignment. "What are the things the federal government is doing that ought to be returned to the state, to get the federal government out of your hair, to give you a chance to be flexible?"

The former House speaker said he'd focus most on regulations he thinks are hindering energy development and on giving states greater flexibility to implement Medicaid programs for the poor.

Gingrich praised House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's ideas for turning more Medicaid funds into block grants to states. Gingrich drew conservative blowback last May for suggesting Ryan's plan for Medicare for seniors constituted "right-wing social engineering."

Gingrich led the House for four years in the 1990s, the capstone of a 20-year congressional career.

From Oklahoma, Gingrich was headed to Arizona to prepare for a Wednesday night debate. It will be the last time the four remaining GOP contenders share a stage before primaries in Arizona and Michigan next Tuesday. Those votes will be followed a week later by the 10 states holding contests on Super Tuesday, March 6.