Ron Paul placed third in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday, coming in behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who claimed victory by just a few votes. As Nia-Malika Henderson reported:

Ron Paul wanted some legitimacy this time around, a bigger platform for his movement, and with his third-place showing in last night’s Iowa Republican Caucuses, he might just get it.

On stage before a cheering crowd in a hotel ballroom here as the final votes were being counted, Paul said that winning elections is the best way to promote a cause, declaring himself one of the night’s three winners.

Paul claimed a ticket out of Iowa, vowing to continue his fight, even as his GOP rivals have dismissed him as a fringe candidate and as party leaders have flatly declared him unelectable.

Iowa voters thought otherwise, taking to Paul’s strident antiwar and small-government message in enough numbers to lift him into a finish just a few percentage points behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Evangelicals, home-schoolers, young people, moderates, libertarians and disaffected Democrats formed an unlikely coalition that led to Paul’s strong showing, and at his Tuesday evening rally he predicted Iowa would be a launching pad to bigger things.

“We have tremendous opportunity to continue this momentum, it won’t be long that there’s going to be an election up in New Hampshire, and believe me, this momentum is going to continue and this movement is going to continue and we are going to keep scoring,” Paul said to his supporters. “So tonight, we have come out of an election where there were essentially three winners, three top vote-getters and we will go on, we will raise the money, I have no doubt about the volunteers.”

Ron Paul’s success in 2012 has underscored the differences in the attitudes of Republican voters from 2008, and many, including Sarah Palin, have warned that establishment Republicans should not ignore Paul’s message. As Felicia Sonmez explained:

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) said Tuesday night that Republicans who would marginalize Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) are making a big mistake.

“Here’s the deal,” Palin told Fox Business Network’s Neil Cavuto. “The GOP would be so remiss to marginalize Ron Paul and his supporters as we come out of Iowa tonight and move down the road to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, et cetera. If we marginalize these supporters who have been touched by Ron Paul and what he believed in over these years, well, then, through a third party run of Ron Paul’s or the Democrats capturing those independents and these libertarians who supported what Ron Paul’s been talking about, well, then the GOP is going to lose. And then there will be no light at the end of the tunnel.”

“So, the worst thing that the GOP machine can do is marginalize Ron Paul and his supporters,” she added.

Palin said that while she disagrees with Paul on foreign policy, the Texas Republican “does have good ideas when it comes to the austerity measures that domestically we must engage in in order to be secure, in order to be solvent as a nation.”

“The supporters of Ron Paul, they hear that. They have been touched by that,” she said.

Asked by Cavuto whether she thinks Ron Paul would be able to win the presidency, Palin did not directly respond. She did muse, however, that Paul might mount a third-party bid that could hurt the chances of the eventual GOP nominee.

Ron Paul will look to take advantage of his third place finish in Iowa next week in New Hampshire, and said he remains confident he has a chance at the GOP nomination. As AP reported:

Texas Congressman Ron Paul says he’s happy with his “good showing” in Iowa, where he finished third in the Republican presidential caucuses.

The Republican with a libertarian bent tells NBC’s “Today” show he felt it was a sound performance, and “it’s doing very well to be in the money” and getting an opportunity to go into New Hampshire.

Paul seeks to distinguish his brand of conservatism with “neo-conservatism,” saying he doesn’t understand why “some conservatives think that the more money you spend overseas, the more conservative you are.”

Paul has been speaking sharply about reducing the American profile in the world, saying it needs to be less interventionist. He says he can be a significant factor in this year’s election campaign because his candidacy has attracted many young voters.

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