The first time he heard Rand Paul speak, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie said he knew.
In the fall of 2009, well before Massie considered running for Congress, he attended a Tea Party rally where a conservative blogger named David Adams was speaking on behalf of somebody Massie had never heard of. He went home excited and pulled up every speech Paul had ever given that could be found on YouTube, "which was possible to do at the time because there were only about six."
That was enough to put Massie on the "Rand wagon," but he didn't hear the Bowling Green ophthalmologist speak in person until later that winter, when Paul attended a Northern Kentucky town hall.
"The thing that struck me when I saw him in person, I walked away a believer at that point, was how confident and comfortable he was in his own positions," Massie recalled. "He wasn't struggling to appeal to the people in the room. He just told them what he believed, and that was really refreshing.
Never miss a local story.
"My first impression was this is a guy who could and should be president."
On Tuesday, Paul will almost certainly take a major step in that direction, likely announcing that he is running for president just six years removed from a time when even many ardent Tea Party activists had never heard his name.
Randal Howard Paul moved to Bowling Green in 1993, where he and his wife, Kelley, focused on raising a family and building his medical practice.
But Paul had inherited the political bug from his father, three-time presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, and began to slowly spread his wings in the coming years, starting with running his father's congressional campaign in 1996.
He also started a group around that time called Kentucky Taxpayers United, an offshoot of a Washington, D.C.-based group that pressured elected officials to promise they wouldn't raise taxes.
In those years, Paul was a prolific letter writer to newspaper editorial pages, warning lawmakers in Frankfort against raising taxes.
But he was still largely unknown. Former Gov. Paul Patton, whose budget efforts Paul was criticizing, said he has no memory of Paul trying to be a thorn in his side.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, a longtime Paul ally and current gubernatorial candidate, said he could not recall Paul's group making much of an impact.
"They weren't a force by any stretch of the imagination," Comer said.
But Paul continued to argue against taxes, striking the posture of a Tea Party leader long before there was a Tea Party.
In 2006, with Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher mired in scandal, Paul wrote a letter to the editor of the Kentucky Post.
"On occasion, I like to daydream," Paul wrote. "Sometimes it's about winning the lottery. Sometimes it's what I'd do if I were president or governor."
A year later, his father was embarking on another presidential campaign. Paul worked hard for his father, spreading the word in Bowling Green and visiting New Hampshire.
It was familiar terrain to Paul, who had campaigned alongside his father in the Granite State as a kid.
"Some guys my age would love to do nothing but watch football and the scores," Paul said in January 2008. "For me, it's watching and reading politics."
About a year later, Adams, the conservative blogger, got a call from the head of the conservative Bluegrass Institute, telling him he should talk to a doctor in Bowling Green who was thinking about running for the U.S. Senate.
"I called him at home and said, 'Are you going to run for the U.S. Senate?' He said, 'Yeah, I can't imagine that liberal David Williams running for the U.S. Senate, so I'm going to have to,'" Adams remembered. "He said, 'It looks like Bunning is on his way out. I wouldn't primary Bunning. But if he's out, I want to do it.'"
For the first several months of 2009, the Paul campaign worked out of a room in Paul's doctor's office, and Adams spent his time on the road, spreading Paul's message to people who had no idea who he was.
"I've been asked more times probably than any other human being: are you Rand Paul?" Adams said. "Of course, that will never happen again."
Around that same time, a CNBC analyst named Rick Santelli gave a charged speech on camera from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, calling for a national Tea Party movement.
"Things were just getting crazy," Adams said. "We created a speakers circuit really fast. And then Rand became a part of that on April 15 in Bowling Green."
It was Tax Day, and the fledgling Tea Party was going to hold a rally in the town square of Paul's adopted hometown.
"Rand was taking his kids to a baseball game and thought he would just drop in, say hi to a few folks and then leave," Adams recalled. "And he comes around the corner on the square in Bowling Green and there are 700 people standing there.
"It was one of these crazy times that everything just kind of hit when it needed to hit."
Continuing to work full-time as a doctor, Paul, with Adams and a skeleton staff, began the work of running a campaign for federal office.
He was enthused by the opportunities to spread his small-government, anti-tax message, but Paul was still skeptical that he could win such a big seat.
"He was talking to his wife and said, 'Don't worry. I'll get 15 percent of the vote,'" Adams said. "And she looked at him and said, 'No, you're going to win.'"
Adams was as skeptical as Paul, but he went about the campaign with a mind on winning and not just proving a point. Over time, Kentuckians began to take notice.
In March 2010, driving "like a bat out of hell" across the state's highways and parkways, Adams finally got a sense that they were breaking through.
"I got pulled over twice in the same week. And the police officer came around to the side of the car, looked in the back seat and said, 'Son, I see what you're doing. Go on. Be careful,'" Adams recalls now. "The first time, I thought 'OK, cool.' The second time it happened, I thought, 'Wow, this is really something.'"
When Aaron Whitten met the younger Paul, he had no idea who Paul's father was, let alone that he was running for president.
Whitten, now the chairman of the Grayson County GOP, said he had little interest in politics when he met Paul, whom he knew only because of the would-be senator's extensive work as a member of the Lion's Club.
At a Lion's Club meeting in Bowling Green in 2006, Whitten sought out Paul, and he said he almost choked on a piece of rubbery chicken when Paul told him that he had been helping his dad with a White House run.
Paul suggested Whitten check out one of Ron Paul's books and gave him his phone number in case he had any questions or wanted to discuss what he had read.
Whitten recalls picking up that book, A Foreign Policy of Freedom.
"I got started reading this book, and I couldn't put it down," he said. "So basically, he started my political awakening."
The two men kept in touch over the following years, as Whitten put out Ron Paul for President signs around Leitchfield, sharing in Rand Paul's measured disappointment when the elder Paul didn't win the 2008 Republican nomination.
In October 2009, Whitten was in Germany, walking through a trade show, when Paul called him on his cellphone.
Paul told Whitten he was running for the U.S. Senate, which Whitten said made him "choke" with surprise, given that the Republican establishment was lining up behind Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
"And just like his dad, after I heard him out, I thought, 'Well it sounds a little crazy to me, but it makes sense what you're saying,'" Whitten recalled after Paul explained to him why he had chosen such a high office for his first run.
So Whitten asked his friend what he thought his chances were of winning.
"He says, 'Oh, I guess probably in the 5 percent range,' and he just starts laughing," Whitten said. "I said 'Well at least you're honest, because that's about what I was thinking.'"
About a month before that conversation, well-known Republican media consultant Rex Elsass was walking through the Minneapolis airport when his cellphone rang.
Elsass had worked both of Grayson's previous statewide campaigns, but he had not been called upon to work the U.S. Senate race. So Elsass had put Kentucky out of his mind when his 80-year-old mother called after seeing Paul on television.
"She said, 'You've got to call Rand Paul,'" Elsass remembers. "It was on a whim from that call that I decided to even call and try to meet with him."
Elsass and his team went to Paul's doctor's office, and they were sitting in the reception room eating pizza when Paul came out. He removed his surgical mask to reveal a facial expression that illustrated how thoroughly unimpressed he was by a big-time media consultant.
"He said, 'What do I need you for?'" Elsass said, laughing. "'I can go down to the cable station and pay $500 to get my ad on the air.'"
Paul did hire Elsass, gradually expanding his campaign team into a professional operation even as Grayson, backed by then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, loomed over his political prospects like Goliath.
Complicating matters, Elsass said Paul made it clear to everyone working on the campaign that he was a doctor first and a candidate second.
"Politics starts after 5 o'clock," was the message Elsass received.
In May 2010, Paul and his team shocked the political world by upsetting McConnell's candidate, winning almost 60 percent of the Republican primary vote.
Those closest to Paul said McConnell moved fast to circle the wagons around Paul and ensure that he would defeat Democrat Jack Conway in the general election.
"The calls got a whole lot easier," Adams said. "It was like, 'Do you want to do a fundraiser? Okay. Do you want it on a Tuesday or a Thursday?'"
It was a rough fall campaign, and Paul was hit with more than his share of setbacks, some self-inflicted and some the result of a highly partisan, closely watched and well-funded campaign on both sides.
McConnell dispatched staff to the race to complement Paul's insurgent campaign with battle-tested professionals.
In the end, Paul rode the Tea Party wave that coincided with his rise as a candidate, winning with almost 56 percent of the vote.
In January 2011, Paul was sworn-in to the Senate, and he continued to wage his own kind of campaign against government institutions and actions that he deemed unconstitutional.
Older senators bristled at the brash freshman senator, and that first year, Paul was viewed acrimoniously by many of his colleagues even as Tea Party members cheered his attacks on the National Security Agency, Democratic and Republican budget proposals and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
Things changed on March 6, 2013, when Paul went to the floor of the Senate to protest the nomination of John Brennan, President Barack Obama's pick to head the CIA.
That protest became a 13-hour filibuster against the domestic use of drones against Americans that captured the attention and imagination of Washington.
"It wasn't something that was planned," said Doug Stafford, Paul's senior adviser. "And Rand joked afterwards about how he would have worn more comfortable shoes."
Paul's filibuster made him the talk of the town, and in April, he told a gathering of reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor that he wasn't ruling out a presidential run.
"I want to be part of the national debate, so whether I run or not, being considered is something that allows me to have a larger microphone," Paul said at the time.
Paul gripped that microphone tight, growing his brand exponentially over the following two years. He won applause from Republicans for trying to broaden the Republican tent by speaking to minority groups and young people even as the Democratic Party viewed him as a charlatan with a history of controversial statements who was merely taking pandering to a new level.
Throughout 2014, Paul hit the road to get GOP candidates, including McConnell, elected in what would become another midterm wave that propelled Republicans to control of the U.S. Senate.
Paul hit the important early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and all along, he openly said he was considering a run for the White House.
After the election last November, he began to staff up in earnest, and at the Christmas party he hosts in Bowling Green, he confided to Whitten that he should look out for a big announcement this spring, probably in April.
On Tuesday, 22 years after he moved to Kentucky and just six years after he burst onto the national scene, many of the people who knew him way back when plan to attend Paul's announcement at the Galt House in Louisville. Overflowing with pride, they hope he could someday soon call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home.
"I'm so excited for him," Whitten said. "I know that it will be an amazing journey that he will learn a lot from even if he doesn't win."
"There is excitement around the state — yeah, I think he can win," Comer said.
For Massie, it's full-circle from the first fundraiser he threw for Paul at his Vanceburg home in January 2010, where 60 people paid $100 each to eat pizza and hear Paul speak.
Massie said that after Paul's remarks, a couple of people, including Massie's father, approached the still relatively unknown Senate candidate with the same encouraging message:
"'I think you're going to win this thing, and I think you're going to be president someday,'" Massie said.