Paul keeps battered hat in Republican ring

Associated Press

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Texas Rep. Ron Paul said Wednesday he has no plans to drop out of the Republican presidential race, despite the fact that he is way behind in last place in the four-man contest.

Paul said to reporters after a speech at the University of Maryland he wants to debate “as long as possible, as long as there’s a primary.” He shrugged aside any pressure to drop out in order to unite behind frontrunner Mitt Romney.

“I want to talk about the Fed,” Paul, who is a critic of the Federal Reserve’s policies. “I want to talk about personal liberties. I want to talk about the war, and they’re not talking about it, so unity is very secondary to debating issues in a serious way.”

Romney is the leader with 568 delegates, based on a tally by The Associated Press. That is slightly less than half the needed 1,144. Rick Santorum has 273, and Newt Gingrich has 135. Paul has 50.

Paul spoke Wednesday night to a capacity crowd at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Ritchie Coliseum, where the fire marshal estimated about 1,780 people attended, including middle-aged spectators as well as students from the state’s flagship university. Scores of students were turned away due to lack of space.

Paul appeared to be enjoying the attention as he energetically touched on anti-war and personal liberty themes as well as underscoring the need to shrink federal government. The audience responded enthusiastically as well, standing, applauding and chanting “President Paul.”

Supporters described him as a civil libertarian with consistent views.

“He backs the Constitution,” said Richard Smith, who drove from Chambersburg, Pa., with his wife, Joan for the event. “He’s never swayed at all in any of his feelings or his stance on any one of the issues.”

Maryland is drawing candidates this week in advance of the state’s primary on April 3.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in Annapolis on Tuesday. Mitt Romney was in Arbutus last week.