Before Rand Paul's plane landed in Austin, Texas, last weekend, the Democratic National Committee had already laid down a not-so-welcome mat.
Paul's trip to South by Southwest, the music, film and technology festival in Austin, was greeted by a tongue-in-cheek guide to the shindig the DNC created for Paul, including concert directions so Paul could hear songs like Hypocrite by the Twerps, Vaccine by Mew and History Eraser by Courtney Barnett.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Democratic Party has largely hit the mute button when it comes to attacking Paul, instead playing gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway's greatest hits on repeat.
Though some rank-and-file Democrats find the state party's silence on Paul deafening as he inches closer to a White House run, party officials say they have a plan for Paul. But first, they have to win this year's races.
Patrick Hughes, the new chairman of the KDP, said he has limited resources, and his entire focus is on electing Democrats to statewide offices this year, starting with Conway at the top of the ticket.
"Are we aware of what Rand Paul is doing? Yes," Hughes said in an interview with the Herald-Leader last week. "Frankly, I wish that he would represent Kentucky as much as he games the system. But he's really secondary right now. We're going to focus on getting Jack Conway elected governor."
While the DNC has kept tabs on Paul for more than a year now, filling reporters' inboxes with fact-checks and digs as Paul travels the country, state Democrats have by and large given him a pass.
Some of that is a matter of resources, but some of it reflects a political reality — reinforced by last year's midterm elections that saw U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell re-elected in a landslide even as Democrats maintained control of the state house — that Hughes and other Democrats are clear-eyed about.
Hughes rejected the idea that Conway and the governor's office are a firewall for a party that has seen its numbers dwindle after years of dominance following a rightward lurch by the more rural parts of the state.
But the new chairman did concede that "for the time being, we're going to devote our resources to the races we can win."
That means a relentless, laser-like focus on this year's races for constitutional offices and leaving the attack dog role to the national party and the occasional lone-wolf state Democrat willing to take a shot at Paul.
Chief among those lone wolves is state Auditor Adam Edelen, who was conspicuous in his criticisms of Paul last year when the rest of the state party limited its endless attacks to McConnell.
In an interview Tuesday, Edelen didn't second-guess KDP's thinking, noting that it has successfully defended the governor's office and other statewide offices even as Republicans have won federal offices.
"The Kentucky Democratic Party has generally been one that's been state focused, which is why I think we've had success," Edelen said.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was soundly defeated by McConnell last year and is running for re-election as secretary of state this year, has also been willing to fire in Paul's direction, taking issue with his efforts to move the state Republican Party to a presidential caucus.
Grimes and Edelen get credit for throwing some high heat Paul's way, as many state Democrats wonder if the party is perhaps letting an opportunity slip away by not getting out a saw as Paul steps further onto the flimsy branch of a presidential run.
To that end, Democratic officials counsel patience and what they believe is a solid strategy of simply waiting for Paul to self-destruct.
"Given the winter that Paul has had, I don't know that the Democrats could do anything to make it worse," Edelen said, pointing to some of Paul's more controversial statements like the flap over childhood vaccines earlier this year.
"Sometimes it's best to just stay out of somebody's way," he said.
Both Hughes and Edelen said they believe the party will field a strong challenger against Paul next year, but who and whether that person can afford to concede the majority of this calendar year to a senator who already has $4 million in his re-election account are both far from certain.
Edelen repeated Tuesday that he is focused on his re-election race and not a 2016 Senate bid, and it's hard to imagine that Grimes would have much confidence from the party or its donors after losing to McConnell so badly.
Hughes said that no potential candidates have approached him about the race, and he acknowledged that for any Democrat considering taking on Paul, last year's lopsided margin in the Senate race and Paul's ability to fundraise nationally have to be seriously weighed.
"Anybody that's thinking about running against an incumbent senator better take a very strong look at it," he said. "We don't want anybody getting in a race like that lightly. So any qualified candidate is going to walk into that analysis with a skeptical eye. They're going to look at things like margins. They're going to look at fundraising ability. They're going to look at national trends."
Edelen added that "there's a sense we'll get to Paul when we get to him."
"It's not like he's running a robust re-election campaign in Kentucky," he said.
Hughes said that the 2016 Senate race is "part of what we're building toward."
"Like any organization, we have a short-term strategic plan," he said. "That plan is Jack Conway-Sannie Overly in the fall. Long term, to make sure that Kentucky has elected leadership, particularly in the United States Senate, that is going to represent Kentucky."
For their part, Paul's team isn't taking a challenge for granted even though KDP's recent record in federal races has given them reasons to be confident.
Dan Bayens, Paul's Kentucky spokesman, said the senator "is honored to serve the people of Kentucky every day."
"He will continue to be a strong conservative voice for the commonwealth and fight for every Kentuckian, regardless of their political identification or party," Bayens said.
Hughes said he believes there will be a time and place to challenge Paul, but only if the state party is successful this November.
"Not to be a broken record, but I really am going to focus our resources on our Democratic ticket this fall," Hughes said. "From there, I'll be able to use those victories as a platform to go out and find a candidate that's in a position to make a meaningful challenge and perhaps unseat Rand Paul."