Gingrich speaking at Five Points luncheon today

Gingrich speaking Friday / Fraendy Clervaud

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- Republican presidential hopeful and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is visiting the Midlands.

Gingrich spoke at a Five Points Rotary Club luncheon Friday afternoon at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Gingrich is raising the ante on the fight between Boeing and the National Labor Relations Board.

He said Congress should cut funding for the NLRB and tie that move to an upcoming measure increasing the nation's debt limit.

The NLRB says Boeing Co. built a South Carolina assembly plant in retaliation for union strikes at facilities in Washington state.

Gingrich also said he fully supports a House GOP plan to create Medicare vouchers.

It was Gingrich's first visit to the state since he criticized GOP plans for a sweeping overhaul of Medicare, and his first visit since officially launching his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president earlier this month.

Gingrich apologized as the uproar over his comments grew. Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says Gingrich will have to explain himself to voters in the first-in-the-South primary state.

Gingrich also said Friday he has to be more careful about what he says as a presidential candidate than he was as a Fox News analyst.

His visit came as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin launches a campaign-style East Coast bus tour.

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Last Saturday, former Gov. Mitt Romney made his first campaign stop of the 2012 race in South Carolina.

Romney spoke to a group of small business owners at Meetze Plumbing in Irmo.

"We TMve sampled the opinions of people in this state today and as I look at the polls, people in this state aren TMt devoted to only voting for someone from the south, they TMre willing to consider a guy from Massachusetts as well," says Mitt Romney, GOP presidential hopeful.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has made a couple of trips to South Carolina and met with Gov. Nikki Haley.

Possible candidate and former ambassador and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also visited Haley at the State House earlier this month. Huntsman also gave one of the commencement addresses at the University of South Carolina's graduation.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)