Mitt Romney used a well-worn cliche (“Tonight, we made history”), Jon Huntsman a cringe-worthy metaphor (“ladies and gentlemen, I’d say third place is the ticket to ride). But Ron Paul got in the most authentic and ironic opening line of all of the night’s speeches.

“I want to thank the Union Leader for not endorsing me,” Paul said, a dig at the man who won that prize, Newt Gingrich, now vying for a distant fourth or fifth.

Paul’s hook was that the media has been ignoring what is becoming a movement, writing off the chances because he is, in Paul’s own words, the “dangerous” candidate.

“That is one thing to be true because we are dangerous to the status quo.”

His supporters — younger and more enthused than any other campaign — chanted “President Paul” as he arrived, another in-your-face statement to the media and GOP establishment conventional wisdom that he doesn’t stand a chance.

More relaxed and focused than last week, Paul also may have been setting the stage for staying in the race, that his purpose isn’t necessarily to win but to send a message.

“There is no doubt that this whole effort that we are involved in will not go unnoticed,” Paul said.