But when Paul makes comments like he did Friday at the Republican National Committee's spring meeting, arguing that Hillary's handling of Benghazi during her time at the State Department had "precluded" her from being president, it becomes impossible not to see it as 2016 maneuvering.
"The thing is, this is about judgment. And we're talking about, should we as a country have a commander-in-chief who didn't provide adequate security in Libya, didn't send reinforcements and then gave us nothing but spin?," Paul said.
"My opinion is that Hillary Clinton has precluded herself from ever being considered for that position," he told the RNC crowd, to the "loudest applause" of the meeting, according to one observer.
Everybody agrees that it can be only upside for a Republican would-be standard-bearer, especially one who is currently a little outside the mainstream, to spend time assaulting one of the figures most hated by the right. It's good for him, and if does anything to hinder Clinton's expected eventual candidacy, even better.
"Paul gets points for punching hard against Hillary. The base loves it," John Feehery, a Republican strategist based in Washington, D.C., told TPM. "And it won't hurt him to slow her down if he gets the nomination."
Other GOP operatives see Paul trying to shore up his credentials with the Republican establishment, many of whom have openly declared war on his 2016 ambitions. Focusing a favored foreign policy topic, like Benghazi, could help him solidify his standing in an issue area where he has some differences with the mainstream GOP crowd. "By delving into Benghazi, he opens the door to making them more comfortable about his foreign policy," Ford O'Connell, another Republican strategist, told TPM.
"Paul wants Clinton out of the race because GOP mega-donors are not sold on his general election appeal," O'Connell said. "With her out of the way, Paul can make a much more plausible case to donors as to his general election appeal."