Will ex-wife’s ABC interview neuter Newt in South Carolina?

I just listened to an interview with ABC’s Brian Ross on Washington’s WMAL about his interview with New Gingrich’s second ex-wife, Marianne, scheduled to air tonight on "Nightline." It doesn’t sound like it warrants the Matt Drudge siren of yesterday, like there’s anything in it that we didn’t already know about Newt’s chaotic private and public lives.

Especially if we read in the summer of 2010 John Richardson’s long (eight pages in the online version) and mesmerizing Esquire story on Gingrich. Romney and his aides must have missed it.

If the biggest shocker in the Brian Ross interview is that Newt asked Marianne, to whom he had been married for 18 years, for an “open marriage,” that’s there in the year-and-a-half-old piece. In Richardson’s words: “He asked her to just tolerate the affair [with current wife Callista Bisek], an offer she refused.” Also, there is Newt calling Marianne to ask for a divorce shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, having installed Callista, 23 years his junior and a congressional aide, in their Washington apartment and in their bed.

I must admit that, political junkie that I am, I never read the Esquire piece, until the early hours of this morning when I couldn’t sleep, was reading around on the Politico site, and clicked on a link to the Richardson story.

Why the Romney people didn’t have excerpts from this story, which includes interviews with Marianne, and with Gingrich himself, front and center in the voters’ faces as Mitt struggles to maintain his lead in South Carolina and finally put a stake in the pesky Gingrich’s heart, is hard to understand.

Perhaps they fear it’s impossible to stop this guy, who, during this primary battle, has been pronounced dead time and again, only to grab his 10th life. One of the more resonant lines in the Esquire piece has Marianne telling Richardson, "He always told me that he's always going to pull the rabbit out of the hat."

The vivid details in this story make Gingrich seem not only a cheater in public and private, but someone, in Marianne’s view, who has faced bouts of apparent mental illness that affected his ability to do his job. The “unreliable leader” theme that Romney is pushing today with testimony from former congressional colleagues of Newt’s is backed up with grim, vivid details in the Esquire story. Richardson uses the word “erratic” to describe Gringrich; he quotes Marianne as describing Newt, after he left the Speakership and Congress, as like a “dead weight.”

“You just couldn't get him to move,” Richardson writes. “The contrast reminded her of his mother and her manic depression, and she told him he needed help.”

Marianne also described for Richardson Newt’s exceedingly odd behavior while Speaker: “There were times, Marianne says, when he wasn't functioning. …. he'd get weirdly 'overfocused’ on getting things done — manic, as if he was running out of time. He took to taking meetings while eating, slurping his food, as if he wasn't aware or didn't care how strange it looked. The staff responded with gallows humor: 'He's a sociopath, but he's our sociopath.' "

Richardson describes Gingrich’s temper at this time as “volcanic.”

Could these words give potential Gingrich voters pause? Yes, a major source is a spurned ex-wife, but still …