Ron Paul: "Wishful thinking" to say an Iowa win for me doesn't matter

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, laughs as he sits down with Elizabeth Rose Chamberlain, 3, of Epping, N.H., while campaigning at the Early Bird Cafe in Plaistow, N.H., Dec. 20, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

BETTENDORF, Iowa - Rep. Ron Paul says his critics are engaged in "wishful thinking" if they believe that if he wins the upcoming Iowa caucuses, it would discredit the Hawkeye State's long-established first-in-the-nation political process.

"I don't know why we have elections if they don't mean anything," the Texas congressman told National Journal/CBS News in an interview late Wednesday -- though he added that "If you win one caucus, it doesn't guarantee anything."

Polls currently show Paul with a slim lead in Iowa, where he has a superior political organization. But most political observers say Paul has almost no chance of winning the GOP nomination because of his uncompromising libertarian beliefs. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 45 percent of Republicans and Republican leaders said his opposition to U.S. military intervention overseas is a major reason to oppose his candidacy.

Paul acknowledged that "I have my work cut out for me" because other many Republicans have abandoned the historical views of former Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, who opposed U.S. involvement in World War II, and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who upon leaving office warned of the dangers of the "military-industrial complex."

"I defend my position as a Republican," Paul said. "So [other Republicans] sort of left that tradition of being less militant. I frequently quote a famous congressman from Iowa, H.R. Gross, and he and I would have voted together completely. He was a civil libertarian and he was a fiscal conservative and he didn't like any wars going on overseas."

Paul also noted that his anti-war views have drawn support from Democrats and independent voters. "I think if you look at the support we get from the independents and Democrats that it really makes a point that we would be a very strong candidate against [President] Obama," he said.

Full CBS News coverage: Ron Paul
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    Rodney Hawkins covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.