Either Jay Leno is having trouble filling time without his writers or he really likes Ron Paul. Or both.
The Texas Congressman and libertarian Republican, who is mounting an insurgent bid for the White House and was blanked Sunday night from a "forum" produced by Fox News, cancelled his lone planned campaign appearance in the New Hampshire on Monday, the eve of the first-in-nation primary, and chartered a plane for Burbank to appear on The Tonight Show.
The appearance seemed long by Tonight show standards and lasted through a commercial break.
Leno told Paul it was unfair, since Paul raised more money for the primary than any other candidate in the last fundraising quarter, not only that Fox would exclude him from the debate, but also that other networks, like CNN and MSNBC would not give more coverage to Fox's decision.
"It must be they didn't want to hear the message. Maybe they're intimidated. Maybe they're frightened. Maybe they don't want to hear the truth," Paul said.
"You seem like a gentleman?. But it seems like you should be kicking somebody's ass right now," Leno told him.
"I mean, you're being extremely polite for something I think you got screwed over, quite -- you know, I mean, I might not necessarily agree with you, but I think, as an American, we like to see everybody get an equal shot, especially someone who deserves an equal shot. And it seems like -- the American people believe that way too. And I think you've tapped into the sentiment of what America thinks," Leno told Paul.
Paul raced back to New Hampshire on a chartered jet after taping the Tonight Show and was back to campaigning in Manchester as voters began voting.
At a polling place downtown, he told reporters he expected to do better in New Hampshire than his 10 percent showing in Iowa.
"Our momentum continues to build," he said. "Everything shows that we are gaining support while others are losing it."
Paul will spend most of Tuesday doing interviews with radio shows, but has a primary night party planned ata Concord hotel.
No matter the results, he said he plans to campaign at least through February 5th, when a block of states, including large states like California hold their primaries.
Paul said Tuesday he is assuming he will be invited to a Fox-sponsored debate in South Carolina on January 10th. A Paul campaign staffer said the criteria for that debate will be a top five finish in New Hampshire.
Paul, who also appeared on the Tonight Show on Halloween last year cracked his own jokes. He told Leno -- it seemed joking -- that he might sue Fox for excluding him from their debate.
"I've been trying to figure out what to do. And I thought, 'Well, maybe I ought to sue them.' And then I thought, 'What am I going to sue them on?' I've decided what to sue them over, and that is for fraud, because of this fair and balanced idea, you know," Paul said.
This is not Leno's first foray into politics this year. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee cancelled his campaign in events in Iowa just before the caucus there June 3rd to sit on Leno's couch.
"Remember he came here the night before Iowa?" Leno asked the audience as he introduced Paul. "Won the next day. The power of this show, ladies and gentlemen," Leno said.
Paul, for his part, told Leno he was not going to endorse another member of the Republican field any time soon even if he loses the primary in New Hampshire -- a poll released tonight by CNN and WMUR shows Paul tied for fourth place with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 10 percent support among Republicans in state where "Live Free or Die" is on the license plates.
Paul did mildly defend Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Mormon whose support in recent polls seems to be ebbing.
"One thing I'm a little bit afraid of is that they might be doing that for religious reasons, and I don't like that. I disagree with Romney on some of the issues, and he's gone after me on the stage, but that shouldn't be the reason that he doesn't do well."
Some of the biggest applause for Paul came from a dig on former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"You know, when we had a little confrontation early on in the debates with Mayor Giuliani when he was confused about what causes terrorism I sent him some books. And I said, 'Please read these books.' But so far it doesn't sound like he's read his books. He hasn't done his homework."
Paul told Leno about his belief that the United States bears some responsibility for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. And he argued against the surge in Iraq despite gains in security there.
"But I'm afraid what happened is that we lost the south. The south now is all controlled by the Shiites, and they're aligned with the Iranians. And the British left. So we more or less lost the South, and there's more peace there and less killing. But there's more killing over there. It's still very, very disruptive. I'm scared to death that we're going to be in Pakistan before it's over. And we still haven't taken off the table any option to go into Iran. We don't need that. The American people don't need a bigger war. Besides, we're broke. We don't have any money to afford this anyway."
Leno also asked Paul about the war among the Presidential candidates for the mantle of who represents more "change."
"I think the American people want change," said Paul, who by opposing most federal programs is arguably the candidate of most change. "So everybody gets up and says, 'I'm for change. I'm for change.' But the whole thing is, is what kind of change? You know, right now whether you like Republicans or Democrats, does foreign policy change? No. Does monetary policy change, and are they going to even talk about it? Does fiscal policy change? No. We elect the conservative Republicans, and they make the deficit worse than the rest. Yeah, the American people are tired of that. They want real change. And to me, that means the only significant change we ought to have is get enough people in Washington that read the Constitution, obey the Constitution, do only the things that we're allowed to."
Paul also talked about the Federal reserve and the printing of money, saying that the candidate he likes the most on foreign policy (besides himself) is not a Republican at all, but liberal Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
It's good that you have allies on both sides of the aisle," Paul said, though he didn't say anything about having friends in the middle.