Rick Santorum's amazing ride is over. What now?

Last year, the former Pennsylvania senator was breezily dismissed as a harmless underdog. But in 2012, he proved that he can bark — and bite

Edward Morrissey

The longest Republican presidential nomination process in recent memory may have come to an end on Tuesday. Not since Ronald Reagan forced Gerald Ford to defend his incumbency all the way to the convention in 1976 has a GOP ticket been contested so deep into the cycle. States that normally have little impact on the Republican nomination, such as California, had begun to prepare for their long-awaited day in the sun.

Disappointment awaits them again. Rick Santorum withdrew from the race two weeks before a critical contest in his home state of Pennsylvania, the only contest on April 24 that anyone expected the former senator to have even a chance of winning against frontrunner Mitt Romney. Recent polling had been mixed, but the trend appeared to show Keystone State voters moving toward Romney. That posed a big problem for Santorum, whose quixotic shoestring campaign had worked miracles to survive as long as it did. Last week's relatively big loss in Wisconsin — a state in which Santorum's Midwest appeal should have given him a boost, and which looks demographically similar to Pennsylvania — probably was the last straw. At the moment, Santorum has revived his standing within the party with the conservative base, but another loss in his home state — where he was crushed in his 2006 Senate re-election bid — could damage his credibility as a candidate in the future. Without a real path to the nomination in the primaries, why take that risk?

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for HotAir.com. His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.