MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Ron Paul scored a solid second place finish in the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, positioning him as the leading anti-establishment alternative to Mitt Romney and ensuring a platform for the Texas congressman's libertarian message for weeks to come.

Paul won about 24 percent of the state's primary vote. It was an improvement from Iowa, where he placed third behind Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Inside a Manchester banquet hall, Paul told a cheering crowd the results repudiated critics who've warned that his views -- particularly his anti-interventionist approach to foreign policy -- were dangerous.

"They are telling the truth. Because we are dangerous -- to the status quo," Paul said to loud cheers.

His New Hampshire showing represented a dramatic shift in fortune for Paul, a largely ignored also-ran in the 2008 Republican contest who placed a distant fifth in New Hampshire that year. This time, Paul's pledge to adhere to the Constitution, audit the Federal Reserve and reduce the size of the federal government found an audience among voters angry over government spending and bailouts and disillusioned with both parties in Washington.

While far behind Romney in New Hampshire, Paul was comfortably outpacing his other GOP rivals in the state.