Paul has enjoyed fundraisers with prominent establishment Republican donors, played golf with Donald Trump, taken gold in two prominent conservative straw polls and networked endlessly with Republicans across the country. But between trips to Silicon Valley and Manhattan and when he’s not doing his day job in Washington (you’d be forgiven for thinking lately that his day job is appearing on cable news and Sunday shows), Paul is here in the Bluegrass State, testifying on behalf of state legislation that would restore felons’ voter rights in Frankfort, continuing his outreach efforts to the black community in Louisville and attending Lincoln Day dinners all over the state.

As a man thinking about a run for the Republican nomination, Paul would be hard-pressed to find a better training ground. With its distinct regions and brands of Republicanism, Kentucky is a perfect campaign laboratory. The deep social conservative streak of Iowa and South Carolina is mirrored in the Purchase region of Western Kentucky and the Appalachian Mountains in the east, while the north is home to a vibrant and vocal Tea Party constituency that looks a lot like the libertarian streak of New Hampshire’s GOP. And the party’s establishment is well represented among the old-money elite of Lexington and Louisville.