While Paul won a respectable 19 percent Saturday — 5 points higher than four years ago — he nevertheless placed third behind Newt Gingrich, whose haphazard Nevada effort barely compared to Paul’s disciplined and well-organized operation…

While Gingrich invested no money on television ads in the state, Paul outspent even winner Mitt Romney. Paul poured in $869,650 compared to Romney’s $488,460 since the start of the year, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group…

In the end, placing third — and finishing under 20 percent for the third consecutive contest — isn’t likely to have a material effect on Paul’s overall goal of collecting delegates in the hopes of establishing himself as a force at the GOP convention. But the result suggests that he has only incrementally expanded his base of support over 2008, rather than established himself as a credible contender for the Republican nomination, and that won’t help him win many new converts in the states to come…

What makes the Nevada performance sting more is that Paul clearly aimed high in the Silver State. Normally he delivers a largely uncustomized pro-liberty message. To a remarkable degree, he tailored his Nevada pitch to parochial issues over the last week. He brought up his opposition to the nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain, his plan to eliminate federal taxes on tips (a play for service workers) and demanded that the federal government make it easier for foreigners to get visas to boost Vegas tourism. He even scheduled two events focused on wooing Latino voters.