Rick Santorum Attacks McCain’s “Temperament”

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Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, is back in the mix–big time. Over the weekend, he was out in Missouri, stumping for Mitt Romney, who he describes as the only true Reagan-coalition conservative left in the Republican race. As Jon Martin reports over at the Politico, Santorum has also volunteered his services as an attack dog for Romney. His target: John Sidney McCain III. In recorded phone calls to Super Tuesday states, Santorum tells voters:

As a conservative I don’t agree with McCain on many issues and I don’t think he has the temperament and leadership ability to move the country in the right direction.

For political junkies that word “temperament” is a red flag, a reference to McCain’s much muttered-about (and often over-hyped) temper. So is Santorum really saying that McCain is too much of a loose cannon to hold the White House? I asked him about the “temperament” comment at a campaign stop in Maryland Heights, Mo., Sunday afternoon. Santorum did not hold back. Here is the entire quote:

John has openly admitted his struggles with that. He wrote about it. He talked about it. Mitt Romney has not talked about it in his campaign, but let me assure you the Democrats are going to talk about it in this campaign, if John McCain wins. I mean this idea that this is not an issue is only because his opponents have not made it an issue in this campaign. The other side isn’t going to be as nice. So we need to get this out on the table. Is it dispositive? No. But I think it’s one [thing to consider] if you look about the electability of this man, number one. And number two, [it speaks to] his ability to govern, when he is, I think I used this term before, when he is a little rough in the sandbox. Now this is coming from someone who is pretty rough in the sandbox too, but I am rough because of the causes I believe in and the issues and try not to make it personal, try not to make it strident. So I think it’s a legitimate issue to have out there only because it’s an issue that will be out there, and we’ll hear a lot about it if he is the nominee.

Then I asked Santorum if he had any first-person experiences with McCain’s temperament. “I don’t know anybody in Washington who has worked extensively with the senator from Arizona who doesn’t have a story to tell,” he said. So what was Santorum’s story? He declined to say, and walked away.