The irony of Newt Gingrich’s surge in South Carolina is that it may make it nearly impossible for a viable not-Romney candidate to emerge. Because, let’s be honest: Gingrich will never be the party’s nominee. His past history, his deeply flawed character and his rhetoric are such that Republicans in the final analysis will not trust him with the task of ousting President Obama.

Three examples should suffice to burst the delusional bubble that has been created by some who imagine that telling off Juan Williams makes Gingrich a viable nominee.

Let’s take Gingrich’s comment regarding Obama: “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” That sort of crass, unseemly language is typical of Gingrich and typically dumb. The discussion this would set off, if he actually were in a general election, would be, once again all about Gingrich — his intemperance, his arrogance and his lack of simple respect for the political process. It is as bad, if not worse, than calling Fed chairman Ben Bernanke a traitor. Both suggest the pol dishing out the insult is a crank.

But more than that, consider details from the Marianne Gingrich Esquire interview in 2010, which will surely be played out on ABC’s ”Nightline” tonight. Politico reports on one of these:

ABC News correspondent Brian Ross gave WMAL AM a small preview of his interview with Marianne Gingrich tonight.

“He came to her and said, ‘I want to stay married to you and still have an affair with Calista, his current wife,” Ross told WMAL’s Morning Majority show this morning. “According to Marianne, he said, ‘You need to share me,’ and she said ‘I don’t want to share,’ and the marriage ended.”

Ya know, the average voter is going to be repulsed by that. And those that aren’t are going to wonder how many other grotesque episodes they will hear about in the months to come.

There is another detail from the Esquire interview (my emphasis):

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused. He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values. The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, ‘How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?’ ‘It doesn’t matter what I do,’ he answered. ‘People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.’

(h/tQuin Hillyer )

There is no better way to sum up Gingrich’s self-image: He believes his rhetoric is such undistilled genius that nothing else matters. But it does. Americans really don’t want a sleazy character and his former mistress in the White House, and they don’t want a person who adopts hypocrisy as his philosophy of life.

Somewhere, Mitt Romney is chuckling. Could he finally wind up with an opponent who has precisely the same liability (the individual mandate) as he? (You have to love the ex-Perry fan who railed at RomneyCare now embracing Gingrich.) Could Romney be so lucky to be up against an opponent who, on global warming and government activism, is to his left? And could he finally have an opponent whom he could make the subject of the media’s scrutiny?

There is a hitch in his dream scenario, however. Rick Santorum could elevate himself and make his YouTube moment tonight by saying the obvious: Gingrich is too erratic and unprincipled, and he can never be the nominee, let alone the president. It’s true. And maybe it’s time to stop pretending Gingrich is fit for the White House and viable as a nominee.