Riding high from his second-place finish in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, Texas Rep. Ron Paul proclaimed the evening a victory "for the cause of liberty" - and warned that he is "nibbling at" the heels of winner Mitt Romney, who now looks a lot like the presumptive nominee.
"Now, I called Governor Romney a short while ago, before he gave his talk, and congratulated him, because he certainly had a clear-cut victory. But we're nibbling at his heels," Paul told supporters. But, he added, "there was another victory tonight. He had a victory, but we have had a victory for the cause of liberty tonight."
After rattling off a list of thank-yous to family members and staffers, the feisty libertarian also found time to throw in a quick jab: "There was one other acknowledgement I wanted to make. I wanted to thank the Union Leader for not endorsing me," he quipped, referring to the influential newspaper's endorsement of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished at the bottom of the pack.
Paul's second-place finish may give him a boost as he brings his antiwar, free-market philosophy to South Carolina ahead of the state's January 21 primary. Regardless, his passionate base of supporters is likely to stick with him and offer financial support as he attempts to build up delegates over the long haul.
According to Jesse Benton, Paul's spokesman, the candidate may also make a hard run in Florida in light of news that the state may move to a primary system that awards delegates proportionally.
"We are getting intel on Florida that they are likely not to be a winner take all," Benton told CBS News/National Journal. "They are going to go to a proportional delegation allocation by congressional district and so that would change our calculus."
Benton said the campaign has the resources "to play" in Florida but it did not make sense if delegates were distributed on a winner-take-all basis.
"If it is only winner-take-all, and only 50 delegates, spending millions on TV didn't make sense to us... With the change we are going to consider playing there real hard," Benton said.
In his Tuesday night remarks, Paul railed against the Federal Reserve and promised to bring troops home from Afghanistan to the loud cheers from his supporters.
He also heralded the growing support behind his message and promised "there's no way they're going to stop the momentum that we have started."
"People have asked me, what did I expect 5, 10 years ago? I had no idea. I always assumed that the best I could do is set a record. I didn't know you were out there," he said. "But it's no longer that irate, tireless minority that is stirring up the troops. Now that irate minority -- and so tireless, as you have been -- it's growing by leaps and bounds. It's going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds. And we will restore freedom to this country."
Rodney Hawkins contributed to this report.