If the race for the Republican presidential nomination is over, nobody told the standing room only crowd of over 4000 people at Cornell's hockey arena on Thursday night. Mitt Romney may have a commanding lead but Ron Paul's plan to cut spending and reduce government has given him an undeniably strong following. Paul voted against the war in Iraq and was mocked by other candidates in 2008 when he talked about unsustainable debt levels and spending. This time around he's received a lot more respect and has gained even more supporters.
"I think there is a difference of night and day from four years ago and it has to do with events. The financial crisis is here. We're in the midst of it. We're not getting out of it easily. Most people are realizing we're in a world wide debt crisis," said Paul in an exclusive interview with CNYCentral.com before the Thursday night rally.
Mitt Romney has a delegate huge lead over Paul and Newt Gingrich but Paul said he will stay in the race. Paul noted that a lot of things could still happen before the Republican convention this summer.
"The votes haven't been counted. We're in the middle of it, I think we're going to have a lot more than people suspect," said Paul.
Paul acknowledged that he was doing his best to win the primary but also wanted to continue talking about his message.
"If you're in the third lap of a mile run, you don't drop out because you're behind so we'll run hard and work very hard at maximizing our efforts," said Paul
Paul has run on a platform of limited government and a plan to bring home most U.S. Troops serving overseas. Some view his positions as extreme and Paul acknowledges that much of his platform is very different from what people are used to.
Currently Mitt Romney hasn't won enough delegates to win on the first ballot at the Republican convention this summer. If the convention has to go to a second ballot, delegates could side with any candidate and several have indicated they would go with Paul. It would still be a long shot but many Paul supporters say a "brokered convention" is a real possibility.
In an interview Thursday night, Paul said he believed he could bring in more independent and democratic votes than any other candidate and pointed to his strong poll numbers among people aged 18 to 34 as a factor.
"When my name is put up against Obama, it's every bit as good as and sometimes better than Romney's name against Obama so that makes the point that the individuals that are looking at what we are talking about is a significant block of votes," said Paul.
While the odds are stacked against Ron Paul to win the Republican nomination, Paul said he's even more of a long shot to be picked as Mitt Romney's running mate if Romney wins. Paul said he and Romney are friends but disagree on too many issues to run together and he can't imagine Romney asking him to join his administration team.