During the 2014 General Assembly, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul showed up at a committee meeting in Frankfort to discuss the importance of restoring voting rights for nonviolent ex-felons. This year, they got a news release.
On Wednesday, Paul was burning up the campaign trail in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, he graced Sullivan University in Louisville with an appearance via video conference.
Earlier in the week, Paul and his team went to Washington, D.C., media outlets to take shots at the rapidly developing 2016 presidential field and confirm the hiring of a campaign manager for his own White House bid.
There was no similar announcement of a campaign manager to run the U.S. Senate re-election campaign that Paul announced last year — also done by news release and through a conference call that featured his senior political adviser calling in from Washington.
As he scrambles to grab headlines in a presidential race that jumped to warp speed with the early and surprising maneuvers of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, Paul increasingly runs the risk of alienating the Kentucky voters he'll need in 2016 to win re-election to the Senate.
Of course, there is one Kentucky issue that Paul and his team have shown is near and dear to their hearts: the state law that prevents a candidate from putting his name on the same ballot twice.
Whether Paul can run for both offices in Kentucky is what political reporters and operatives generally would refer to as a process story, and it's one that Paul and his team have been happy, if not eager, to discuss publicly.
But Wednesday, in response to a series of questions from the Herald-Leader about Paul's commitment to Kentucky, Doug Stafford, his senior political adviser, said in an email message that Paul "works on Kentucky issues every day."
"If people aren't hearing enough about (Paul's work on Kentucky issues), maybe it's because y'all don't write enough about them, choosing instead to write the 5,000th story about process," Stafford wrote.
Paul's allies in Frankfort insist that he is engaged in Kentucky issues.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was charged with doing the heavy lifting for Paul during last year's legislative session, unsuccessfully pushing legislation that would allow Paul to run for two offices at once and a proposal to restore voting rights for ex-felons.
Thayer said Wednesday that he remains in regular contact with Paul through texts and phone calls, even recently when Thayer called while Paul was boarding a plane.
"But he took my call," Thayer said. "I've always felt that he is accessible to me, and I haven't noticed any difference."
Still, Thayer said he is less inclined to push for the restoration of felon voting rights during this year's shorter session.
And state Democrats have a quite different view of who Paul is serving as he looks increasingly toward a run for the White House.
State Auditor Adam Edelen, who during last year's U.S. Senate race often referred to Mitch McConnell and Paul as "Senator Out-of-touch and Senator Out-of-town," said Paul's maneuvering, especially as his focus appears to be on his own ballot access, is "too cute by half."
"It just seems to me that Kentuckians are more likely to see their United States senator on Fox News than they are to see him in their community having an impact," Edelen said.
Filing for his own re-election bid Wednesday afternoon, Edelen said during a phone call that he didn't think the majority of Kentuckians would resent Paul "pursuing his national ambitions."
"I think what the people of Kentucky begrudge is his agenda for Kentucky seems to be focused solely on his ability to appear on the ballot twice," Edelen said.
Dan Bayens, Paul's spokesman in Kentucky, said in an email Wednesday that "ever since I've known Rand, he's been great at striking a balance."
"He did eye surgeries and operated a practice and ran for the U.S. Senate at the same time," Bayens said. "So being part of the national debate and working for Kentucky simultaneously isn't anything he can't handle. He's fully capable of doing multiple things and doing them well."
Bayens said that Paul had "one of the most active offices on Capitol Hill," and that since the new Congress started last week, the senator had introduced and co-sponsored eight pieces of legislation, including a bill to "roll back" hemp restrictions.
Bayens also said Paul had been "working hard" on a proposal for corporate tax repatriation that would help finance infrastructure projects, adding the plan "could be a huge benefit to NKY and the Brent Spence Bridge."
As far as his Senate re-election campaign, Paul has been building a finance team in Kentucky "for months now," Bayens said, and "we've got hundreds of folks from all over the state on board."
There's no doubt that Paul has a strong base of support in Kentucky, and his team is banking on state pride being an asset as one of its own eyes the White House, even using that rationale as part of the reasoning behind selecting Louisville as a home for his campaign headquarters.
But polling last year indicated that Kentuckians, including Republicans, are far from unified behind Paul the presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, another potential 2016 candidate up for re-election the same year, has said he won't run for both offices if he decides to run for president. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has said he wouldn't run for president because he doesn't think he could be an effective senator at the same time.
Of course, Paul isn't the only presidential candidate who has had to strike a precarious balance between running for two offices, and he certainly benefits from a state Democratic Party that was chilled considerably by Alison Lundergan Grimes' landslide loss to McConnell in November.
Paul will be back in Kentucky and participating in events during a Senate recess the third week of February, Bayens said.
He regularly made such appearances in 2014, even as he campaigned for Republican midterm candidates in more than 30 states. Paul will need to find a similar balance in 2015 to head off any discussion that he's a part-time senator.