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Paul hopes to ride momentum to GOP convention

By Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh, CNN
updated 5:33 AM EST, Thu January 12, 2012
Rep. Ron Paul speaks to supporters after his strong showing in New Hampshire Tuesday night.
Rep. Ron Paul speaks to supporters after his strong showing in New Hampshire Tuesday night.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ron Paul expects 2nd-place finish in New Hampshire to spur funding boost
  • His campaign is spending heavily on advertising in South Carolina
  • Continued strong run could give voice to his causes at GOP convention
  • Paul is not bothering with Florida, whose primary is winner-take-all

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Fresh off his strong second-place showing in New Hampshire, Ron Paul's campaign charted a path Wednesday to try to keep his momentum going, perhaps all the way to the Republican National Convention this summer.

The first step is spending big money in South Carolina, where the campaign turns next.

Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign chairman, told CNN the campaign plans to spend about $1 million in South Carolina, which is a significant amount in a state where television advertising isn't all that expensive.

Benton said in addition to television and radio ads, they have also started their direct-mail operation in the state.

Paul expects his strong showing in New Hampshire to fuel more fundraising for his campaign, he told CNN in an exclusive interview as he was learning of his second-place finish.

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"I bet you will see a lot of enthusiasm which will give me encouragement. And when the supporters get enthusiastic they usually go ahead and start another money bomb," Paul said, referring to a short online burst of fundraising.

Overheard: Dissecting Romney's and Paul's success

Paul's aides admitted his organization in Iowa and New Hampshire far exceeded the campaign organization in South Carolina and beyond. But they also hope his impressive finish in both of the first two contests will spur grassroots growth.

Paul finished a solid third in last week's Iowa caucuses.

Earlier this week, Paul told CNN he would not focus on Florida, which follows 10 days after South Carolina, because of the high cost of competing there.

"It tells you we are realistic," Paul said. "I think at this stage we shouldn't be acting like the government and spend money we don't have."

Another reason: The winner of Florida's primary takes all 50 of the state's delegates, unlike other states this time around, which dole out delegates proportional to the candidates' votes.

But Benton said after Paul's strong finish in New Hampshire, the campaign might reconsider that decision. He suggested the Florida GOP may change its winner-take-all rules.

But Florida Republican Party spokesman Brian Hughes said the party has no plans to reconsider the state's delegate allocation.

"We are committed to our rules -- winner-take-all for our 50 delegates," Hughes said.

Paul's campaign said it plans on competing hard in smaller, upcoming caucus states like Nevada, Louisiana and Maine.

Even if Mitt Romney is unstoppable as the GOP nominee after back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, Paul and his aides made clear he intends to keep his campaign going, perhaps all the way to the convention. The more delegates he can rack up, the more leverage he would have to integrate key messages of his libertarian, anti-interventionist movement into the Republican Party platform.

"That sounds like a lot of fun," Paul told CNN's John King USA recently, calling it a potential "way for me to promote the things I believe in, and that is a political action."

"So yes, if we have something to say, who knows, they might even have something in the platform that says, maybe we ought to look at the Federal Reserve and maybe we ought to reconsider and not (go) to war unless we have a declaration of war, which is very, very popular with the American people," Paul said.

As for running as a third-party candidate, as some of his supporters are pushing, Paul maintains he's solidly in the Republican race and has no plans for a third-party run.

"We're running a tight race and we'll see what happens," he told CNN Tuesday night.

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