Rand Paul was back in outreach mode Monday, joining six black teenagers in Louisville's West End for a civics lesson.
But it is Paul who seems to be getting the lesson these days.
More than three months into his presidential campaign and a year and a half since The Atlantic dubbed him the "frontrunner" for the Republican nomination, Paul has come back down to Earth, not necessarily flaming out but no longer setting the world on fire.
The reality of presidential politics is seeping in, and the limitations of what was always a long-shot strategy are coming into focus.
Perhaps more than any other candidate in the ever-growing Republican field, Paul has spent the past two years trying to appeal to independents by defending the right to privacy, reaching out to minority voters and peddling his personal brand of foreign policy.
Strong polling with independent groups is the reason Paul told reporters in Louisville he has received a "great response" since he announced his candidacy.
"One of the things that is probably ... the best indicator of how we're doing is that we lead Hillary Clinton in public polls in five states won by President Obama," Paul said. "And I think that shows our ability to reach out to independent voters."
If Paul was in the middle of a general election against Clinton, that focus on independents might serve him well.
But he's not. He's stuck in the middle of the pack with a nominating electorate that is showing little interest in building relationships with minority voters and a heightened interest in a robust foreign policy.
On issues such as gay marriage, the Confederate flag and the mind-blowing candidacy of Donald Trump, Paul is favoring caution over daring, seemingly all too aware that what he says to win independents could cost him with Republican primary voters.
When Paul was asked about some of Kentucky's county clerks refusing to grant marriage licenses in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing gay marriage, he said he had been traveling and hadn't seen the clerks' arguments.
Unless he's competing in an unknown primary in a cave somewhere that has no cellphone reception, it seems less likely that Paul is unaware of what's happening on the ground in Kentucky and far more likely that he is keenly aware that conservative Republican and independent voters have starkly different views on gay marriage.
Similarly, Paul ticked off the urban areas he has visited recently while speaking to a black audience in Louisville, but he left off his visit in Nevada with Cliven Bundy, the rancher who went to war with the federal government over land rights before sharing his thoughts on "the Negro" and wondering "are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?"
In Elizabethtown, at an event before the one in Louisville, I asked Paul if having a private meeting with Bundy (Paul's campaign team has disputed Bundy's characterization of the meeting) undercut his message of growing the GOP tent.
Paul didn't address the question directly, speaking generally about where he has gone and what his message is as he reaches out to minority groups. When pressed about Bundy's controversial comments, Paul noted that he "was critical of that at the time."
At that same event in Elizabethtown, Paul was asked by one of the handful of people in the audience to share his thoughts about the coming nuclear deal with Iran.
"I do prefer an agreement to war," he said. "We've had a lot of war. And I don't think war would be very successful in Iran."
The next day, when the agreement was announced, Paul came out against it.
When he was asked repeatedly by reporters in Elizabethtown and Louisville if Trump's controversial remarks about immigrants were hurting Paul's efforts to reach out to minorities, Paul demurred again and again, refusing to condemn or condone Trump.
When South Carolina Republicans joined with Democrats to call for the Confederate flag to come down, Paul was oddly silent, signing books in Louisville. A day later, Paul said he would vote to remove the flag if he were a lawmaker in South Carolina.
The long and short of all of this is that Paul is stuck, afraid of alienating core GOP voters while trying to woo independents he might never get the chance to face.
Or put another way: When he tries to lure the independents who are disgusted by the comments of Bundy or Trump, he risks losing Republican primary voters who see truth in both.
The result is milquetoast responses to the issues of the day that leave "the most interesting man in politics" not really all that interesting.
There is value in being different. It's how Paul's father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, built a national base that his son has benefitted from, and that should be enough to get Rand Paul into the Republican debates.
But there is also a risk in being different, and more often than not it seems Paul is unsure of when to take that risk and on what issues.
People close to Paul have always acknowledged that the senator's path to the nomination would be narrow and tricky.
Trump's ascent to the top of Republican polls only underscores that, as it appears a Republican Party that wants Trump as its spokesman wouldn't have much use for Paul.
It's a problem that's not unique to Paul. Republican rival Jeb Bush said in December that the GOP nominee should "lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles."
The problem for Paul, Bush and other general election-minded Republicans is that appealing to the hard-core right is exactly how Republicans have won primaries and lost general elections.
But if a candidate can't win primaries, then it really doesn't matter how he or she would do with independent voters in a general election.
As far as civics lessons go, that one is pretty harsh, and it's one Paul seems to be getting schooled in with every passing day.