Is the date Jan. 21 about to be a lot brighter for Newt Gingrich?
As South Carolina votes Saturday, Mitt Romney’s campaign sent a press release wishing Gingrich a “happy anniversary” for the House decision to reprimand him, which happened on Jan. 21, 1997.
Headlined “Happy 15th Anniversary, Mr. Speaker,” the release said, “Fifteen years ago today, Newt Gingrich became the first House speaker in American history to be reprimanded by his colleagues.”
Gingrich was investigated for tax irregularities and for campaign finance disclosure violations in the late 1990s. The matter, conducted when Republicans controlled the House, was settled when Gingrich paid a $300,000 fine and was reprimanded for violating House rules.
Romney's campaign has worked to deflect controversy over the release of his tax returns by focusing attention on Gingrich's ethics probe.
Romney’s day-of primary reminder followed Romney surrogate Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) calling on Friday for Gingrich to release the Ethics Committee report that led to the reprimand and fine.
Also on Friday, Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu (R) blasted Gingrich on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien", saying the report was a "serious problem."
"What do you think you're going to find in his [Romney's] taxes? The important thing is to find things that could be an October surprise problem," Sununu said. "Newt Gingrich has a serious problem with the package that the Ethics committee had when they fined him $300,000."
"Ring out the laundry. That's more important than anything else. Nancy Pelosi was on that group. If Nancy Pelosi knows, President Obama knows. We ought to be able to know now," he added.
Of course, if Gingrich wins in South Carolina tonight, he’ll have a much sweeter event to celebrate the date of Jan. 21.
Gingrich was peaking with leads on Romney in two polls released Saturday morning.