Rick's Rocky Road Ahead

Rick Santorum's sorry showing in Illinois on Tuesday should speed the end of his upstart and unlikely quest for the presidency.

He lost to Mitt in the Land of Lincoln by 12 points, 47-35, reaffirming his pattern of only doing well in smaller rural or southern states.

And he lost after polling just a week ago showed him competitive with Mitt in Illinois. But the combination of getting killed on the air by the Romney money machine and saying things such as the race is not about the economy proved too much to overcome.

Rick likely gets a reprieve on Saturday in Louisiana, but the road after that looks very rocky.

Santorum, in the latest polling, leads in Louisiana with 37 percent of the expected vote. Romney is second with 24 percent and already-over Newt stands at 21.

But even if Santorum's lead holds through Saturday, the string of contests after that don't hold, for him, much promise. April, for Rick, looks like the cruelest month.

On April 3, contests in D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin offer a better demographic fit for Mitt than Rick.

On April 24, Rick's expected to win in Pennsylvania (though that will be about as meaningful as Newt winning Georgia) but almost certainly loses on the same day in Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island.

As things stand now, Romney has more than double Rick's delegates and is nearly halfway to the 1,144 needed for the nomination.

I understand the volatility of national politics these days, and have come to expect the unexpected.

And no one anywhere is more surprised than I am that Santorum has been considered a serious contender -- although, as I consistently point out, his support in low-turnout Republican states is not and never has been enough to win either the nomination or the General Election.

The road ahead, after Saturday, is likely to prove the point.