[T]he bigger winner was Ron Paul. He got 21 percent in Iowa, 23 in New Hampshire, making him the only candidate other than Romney to do well with two very different electorates, one more evangelical and socially conservative, the other more moderate and fiscally conservative.
Paul commands a strong, energetic, highly committed following. And he is unlike any of the other candidates. They’re out to win. He admits he doesn’t see himself in the Oval Office. Those aiming for the White House are one-time self-contained enterprises. Paul is out there to build a movement that will long outlive this campaign.
Paul is less a candidate than a “cause,” to cite his election-night New Hampshire speech. Which is why that speech was the only one by a losing candidate that was sincerely, almost giddily joyous. The other candidates had to pretend they were happy with their results.
Paul was genuinely delighted with his, because, after a quarter-century in the wilderness, he’s within reach of putting his cherished cause on the map. Libertarianism will have gone from the fringes — those hopeless, pathetic third-party runs — to a position of prominence in a major party.
Look at him now. He’s getting prime-time air, interviews everywhere, and, most important, respect for defeating every Republican candidate but one. His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition — within the Republican party.