(CNN) – A top Mitt Romney surrogate skewered Rick Santorum Monday for his recent contentious interaction with a reporter, saying it proves he does not have the temperament to serve as president.
"Sen. Santorum has lost his personal discipline and self control in the process," former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said on a conference call with reporters. "It's one thing to lose your temper at a New York Times reporter and it's another to have to deal with the pressures of folks on the international stage and even opposing Congressional leaders."
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Santorum engaged in a heated exchange with The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny after a campaign event Sunday.
Zeleny asked Santorum if he thinks Mitt Romney is the "worst Republican in the country to run against Obama," something the candidate said while campaigning in Wisconsin. In response, Santorum said "I didn't say that. You guys are distorting what I'm saying … Quit distorting my words. It's bulls***."
At a campaign stop shortly before the questioning, Santorum, speaking about health care, said, "Why would we put someone up who is uniquely - pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?"
Sununu, a former White House chief of staff, characterized the interaction as another "outburst" from the former Pennsylvania senator who "speaks before he thinks."
"You need to be able to handle your messaging. It's temperament that makes people want to follow the leader," Sununu said. "Outbursts in the last few days have in my opinion disqualified him completely on that aspect."
Sununu also accused Santorum of running on "ego and emotion" and "dragging the process out," ahead of the April 3 Wisconsin primary.
"I just hope what we expect to be strong results coming out of Wisconsin will help remind him that it's time to rally around Gov. Romney as the nominee," Sununu said.
Later Monday, in an interview with CNN, Santorum brushed aside suggestions that the recent kerfuffle proves he's unsuited to be president.
"After I won Louisiana by 23 points?" Santorum told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I understand the game but this is, you talk about desperate and pathetic, Mitt Romney can't run on his record."