Newt Gingrich opened his presidential campaign here Friday night by introducing a jobs plan that would slash taxes and repeal an array of bureaucratic regulations.

Returning to the state where he launched his political career more than three decades ago, the Republican former House speaker presented himself in sharp contrast to President Obama, whom he derided as a “food stamp president.” Gingrich sounded a hopeful tone as he pledged that a Gingrich administration would reaffirm American exceptionalism.

“My theme is going to be: Together we can win the future. The right policies lead to the right results. And I’m going to argue that President Obama will lose the future because the wrong policies lead to the wrong results,” Gingrich said in a dinner speech before hundreds of activists at the Georgia Republican Party’s annual convention. He also signed his official statement of candidacy at the event.

Gingrich, who has written more than a dozen non-fiction books — he plugged his latest, “To Save America,” on bookshelves now — opened his 30-minute address with a long rumination on American history. He predicted that the 2012 presidential election will be the most consequential since Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860.

“We’re at the crossroads,” Gingrich said, repeatedly sniffling from allergies. “Down one road is a European centralized bureaucratic socialist welfare system in which politicians and bureaucrats define the future. Down the other road is a proud, solid, reaffirmation of American exceptionalism.”

Central to that promise, he said, would be eliminating the capital gains and estate taxes and reducing the corporate income tax from 35 percent to 12.5 percent. Those tax cuts, as well as freezing the personal income tax rates at their current Bush-era levels, is critical to creating jobs and spurring innovation, he said.

“The most important social welfare program in America is a job,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich sought to lay blame for the recession, as well as the economic and social upheaval in Detroit, on Obama and his policies. “President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history,” Gingrich said. “I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in American history.”

Less than two weeks after Obama led a successful raid on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Gingrich said Obama “does not have a clue” about foreign affairs.

Gingrich said the United States should reevaluate its diplomatic ties with Pakistan since bin Laden was found to have been living there for several years.

“I was trying to figure out what the word ally meant,” he said. “I know what the word sucker meant. How stupid do you think we are?”

Earlier Friday, Gingrich visited supporters at Fincher’s Barbecue here before riding a tour bus to the convention hall for his speech. Gingrich was greeted in Macon by scores of activists wearing “Newt 2012” stickers.

But when Gingrich’s name was mentioned in the convention hall earlier in the day, activists gave him only lukewarm applause compared with the loud cheers for fellow Georgian Herman Cain, a businessman and likely presidential hopeful.

Tom Perdue, a veteran GOP operative in the state, predicted Georgians would support Gingrich “mostly because it’s a poor cow who doesn’t kick her own calf. It’s an old farm saying. Even if the calf has a deformity, the mama cow keeps care of her calf.”

Next week, Gingrich will campaign across Iowa as he tries to build support in the state home to the first-in-the-nation caucuses.