After Ron Paul finished a distant second in the New Hampshire primaries last night, his campaign released a statement that calls for all the other candidates except Mitt Romney to drop out of the race. From the campaign:

The race is becoming more clearly a two-man race between establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the candidate of authentic change. That means there is only one true conservative choice. …

We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.

Ron Paul has the boldest plan to cut spending, a dedication to protecting life, and a lifelong dedication to the Constitution and limited government. He also has the necessary support to campaign nationwide against Mitt Romney.

The statement also points out that Ron Paul has been shown in national polls as able to beat Obama — unlike any of the other non-Mitts. Like nearly everything Paul says, the statement is bold. Were it not Ron Paul making it — were it, say, Rick Santorum — it would probably be a more welcome sentiment to concerned conservatives. Those pesky foreign policy positions …

Still, for all that Mitt Romney has so far received little credit from the media for his doubleheader of victories and for all that Republican strategists routinely dismiss Ron Paul as a viable alternative to Romney, the two both proved a remarkable ability to attract support from Republicans of all ideological stripes. According to the exit polls,  42 percent of Republicans who consider themselves conservative on most policy matters voted for Romney and an additional 19 percent of Republicans who consider themselves conservative voted for Paul. In other words, they numbered one and two among conservative Republicans no less than among moderate-to-liberal Republicans.

Nevertheless, New Hampshire is a unique animal, known for the moderate tendencies of its residents. We’ll have a much better picture of the preferences of the entire GOP base after South Carolina.