Rick Santorum's Spring Break: A week of beer, bowling, brats and bocce ball

Santorum tried all sorts of beers: On Palm Sunday, he ordered a triple sampler at a brewery in West Bend, including the "Feelin' Lucky" Irish stout. At a cheese factory in Appleton, he downed a bottle of "Road Slush" stout.

"I'm a stout guy," he told the brewery owner before ordering two of them and an amber ale.

[Related: Palin's advice for Romney: Don't be afraid to go 'rogue' with VP choice]

Throughout the weekend, Santorum, known for being relatively dour at times, seemed cheerful -- gleeful even. He was relaxed, cracking jokes during his speeches and even slipping in a few cracks about himself. At a late night address in Pewaukee on Saturday, for instance, he jokingly mentioned his disastrous Senate defeat in 2006 against Bob Casey, a fact of history he rarely volunteers to discuss unprovoked.

"This is the most upbeat Santorum speech I've heard him give," observed NBC News embed reporter Andrew Rafferty, who has trailed Santorum across the country for months. "Maybe ever."

For Santorum, it is possible the apparent giddiness could be his way of accepting that the campaign season is winding down. He has arguably been one of the hardest working candidates in the race, having labored his way up from the bottom of the polls when he held events in Iowa that literally no one showed up for, to becoming the lead rival to the frontrunner. The man has only taken five days off the campaign trail since last summer, and spent most of that time eking his way along financially. With weak organization to speak of and an entourage that consisted of little more than the candidate and a friend with a Dodge Ram, Santorum went from being the candidate who could hardly get his name on the ballot in some states to becoming a household name. While the battle is certainly not over, it now appears this could be the beginning of the end.

After all of this, it is hard to blame him for taking a few calm days in Wisconsin, putting himself in someone else's shoes.

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