A day after losing a Nevada contest that exposed the limits of his appeal to Republicans, Ron Paul vowed to keep pressing ahead for the party's presidential nomination, saying his ideas were inspiring an intellectual revolution among young Americans.
"I want to change the government, and I want to change it through the electoral process, but I also want to change the hearts and minds of people," the Texas congressman told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." "That is where it really starts, and that is where we're making the progress."
Initial returns found Paul finishing third in the Nevada caucuses, just behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but far behind winner Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. If those results stick in the final tally, it would mark a serious disappointment for Paul, who is counting on a sprawling grassroots network of supporters to dominate GOP contests in states that hold party caucuses rather than primaries.
"The votes aren't all counted yet, and there seems to be a bit of chaos out there, even though it was a small caucus vote," said Paul, who had hoped to place at least second to Romney. "There was a lot of confusion. So yes, if you go from second to third, there would be disappointment, but also on the positive side, we will get a bloc of votes. We will still get some delegates."
Paul stopped short of saying that he had no hope of capturing the nomination. But he came close.
"The first thing you want to achieve is get as many votes as you can and get as many delegates and set your target high," he said. "And, of course, you set it for victory, but you have to live within the real world."
Paul, who has declined to rule out the possibility of a third-party candidacy in the fall, said he was not worried that continuing attacks on Romney, mainly by Gingrich, might harm the Republican nominee in the fall.
"I worry about myself," he said. "I worry about the message. I worry about the country. I worry about the wars going on. I worry about the economy in the real sense of what it's like to have runaway inflation."
"I don't see a lot of difference among our other candidates or between the two parties," he added.
In Minnesota, which holds GOP presidential caucuses on Tuesday, Paul drew a large crowd to a rally on Saturday at Bethel University, a Christian school in Arden Hills. He suggested on ABC that events such as that one were evidence of "an intellectual revolution going on with the young people."
"It has not been translated into an absolute political change," he said, but it "has to come first before you see the political changes, and that's where I'm very optimistic."