And that question quickly gives rise to another: Could Rand Paul actually be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee?
The answer, according to a handful of GOP strategists, is maybe. But it's probably too early to tell, and it will depend greatly on the direction taken by the GOP - and Paul - over the next several years, they say.
he Republican National Committee formally endorsed immigration reform on Monday and outlined plans for a $10 million outreach to minority groups - gay voters among them - as part of a strategy to make the GOP more "welcoming and inclusive" for voters who overwhelmingly supported Democrats in 2012.
In a report released Monday, the RNC says that the way the party communicates its principles isn't resonating widely enough and that focus groups perceive the party as "narrow minded," "out of touch" and "stuffy old men."
"The perception that we're the party of the rich unfortunately continues to grow," Reince Priebus, the RNC chair, said in a Monday morning speech.
To broaden its appeal, the party must reach out to minority voters and others, according to one recommendation in the report: "We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party's appeal will continue to shrink," it said.
Party leaders have crafted dozens of recommendations following a months-long self-examination prompted by last year's painful election losses. The report also calls on Republicans to take a harder line with corporate America, loosen political fundraising laws in Washington and in state capitals, and cut in half the number of candidate debates in a shortened 2016 presidential primary calendar.
"When Republicans lost in November, it was a wakeup call," Priebus said.
The Republican National Committee's shift on minority outreach may be the most visible change in the coming months.
Priebus plans to dispatch hundreds of paid workers into Hispanic, black and Asian communities across the nation by the end of the summer, a $10 million effort meant to rival President Barack Obama's national political machine.
The RNC will also push for a tone of "tolerance and respect" in the immigration debate, create "senior level advisory councils" focused on minority groups, and establish "swearing in citizenship teams" to connect with new voters immediately after swearing-in ceremonies.
"We need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case," the report says. "We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too."
The recommendations will not be well received in all corners of the Republican Party.
Some Republicans, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio among them, are working toward bipartisan immigration reform that is likely to include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants - sometimes called "amnesty." Conservative commentator Ann Coulter ripped the idea in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend.
"If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election," Coulter said.
A veteran Republican strategist and one of the report's authors, Sally Bradshaw, acknowledged Monday that there would be opposition within the party, but said "other Republicans are starting to step up."
"There is not an easy path for this," she said. "These are difficult recommendations."
The RNC's recommendations follow an extensive look at what went wrong in 2012.
Priebus tapped a handful of respected party leaders to examine how the GOP could better talk with voters, raise money from donors and learn from Democrats' tactics. The report also suggests that party officials could lean more on independent groups such as super political action committees to fund television advertising campaigns, allowing the Republican National Committee to focus on strategy and contacting voters.
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under former president George W. Bush, and Bradshaw, a top adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, were among those leading the inquiry. Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, a GOP strategist and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, was also part of the group. RNC members Zori Fonalledas of Puerto Rico and Glenn McCall of South Carolina rounded out the five-person committee that listened to Republicans' ideas and frustrations.
Those leaders heard from 50,000 rank-and-file members about how to respond to the nation's shifting demographics.
Priebus planned a full-scale rollout of their recommendations Monday, although the proposals - particularly those affecting the presidential primary calendar - are far from a done deal. They would have to win the approval of the 168-member RNC and then each state's election chief would have to abide by the party's proposed calendar.
The report recommends reducing the number of presidential primary debates to approximately 10 to 12, with the first scheduled no earlier than Sept. 1, 2015. It calls for the primary calendar to begin with the traditional "carve out" states - such as Iowa and New Hampshire - before moving to a major reorganization, such as a "regional primary system" finished by mid-May.
While there was much focus on the nuts and bolts of politics, the report also offers extensive recommendations for how Republicans communicate with voters.
The report also calls for the GOP to take a harder line with corporations.
"We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare," it says. "We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years."
Sen. Rand Paul filibusters for nearly 13 hours
Rand Paul's filibuster: What you may have missed
From Hardline, The WBEN Politics Program
(Sunday 10am-12 Noon)
A C-PAC RECAP
from Prof. Kevin Hardwick
"I think he has a ways to go before he would be considered a viable candidate," said veteran Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. "He's already impressing conservative voters," but "it's a long way to go."
"Does he have potential? Of course," added Bonjean.
I think he represents a paradigm shift," said an adviser to both Pauls who declined to be named so he could discuss a Rand Paul bid more candidly. "He's the first candidate to represent a new political philosophy since Ronald Reagan was the ideological champion of conservatives."
According to the adviser, Paul is already laying the groundwork for a potential bid - his team has "already had two meetings" about 2016, and Paul's recent trip to Israel is further evidence of his aspiration. "You don't go to Israel like he did," the adviser said, "unless you're already exploring some of that territory."
The younger Paul, unlike his father, is a statewide official - elected in 2010 to Kentucky's open Senate seat after routing the handpicked primary candidate of the powerful dean of the state GOP, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ron Paul, by contrast, represented a deeply conservative House district in Texas, rarely facing a competitive election and freed by supportive constituents to sit out on whichever political limb he saw fit.
As a result of his larger platform, Rand Paul has had to be more politically adroit than his dad was. On foreign policy, in particular, the younger Paul has carved out a distinct voice for himself. He recently declared at a speech at the Heritage Foundation that he is neither an isolationist nor a neoconservative, but a "realist," distancing himself from both the isolationism that handicapped his father and the aggressive interventionism of Bush-era Republicans.
And at this early stage, the adviser said, Rand Paul is already more viable than his father ever was.
He has also softened his tone on ending foreign aid, particularly aid to Israel, saying during a recent trip there, while he would still elect to eventually end all foreign aid, "I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel and enemies of the U.S.," he said, reported the Jerusalem Post. "I would like to see their aid end more quickly. With regards to Israel, it could be a gradual phenomenon."
These and other signs of flexibility from Rand Paul are emblematic of the central political struggle facing his potential 2016 candidacy: if he is to emerge as a viable presidential candidate in four years, he will need to navigate a treacherous tightrope, tapping into his father's supporters but keeping a respectful distance from some of the rougher edges of the elder Paul's platform to build a broader following.
"He's way more political than his dad ever was," observed Bonjean. "He is playing his cards well by trying to work with tea party Republicans as well as the Republican leadership."
"I think his father was needlessly provocative at times," the Paul adviser added. "Rand Paul says the same thing" as his dad, the adviser explained, but he says it more artfully, with greater awareness of potential controversy.
Bonjean agreed that Paul's balancing act is more a matter of optics than concrete policy changes: "I don't think he's more moderate, I just think he's more political."
But despite a political dexterity greater than his father's, Rand Paul is also no stranger to provocation. He sparked a fierce row during his Senate campaign in 2010 when he suggested to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s unfairly abridged states' rights, and he is likely to be asked about that and other controversial remarks if and when he launches a bid.
Moreover, there's no guarantee that Ron Paul's supporters would follow Rand Paul into the mainstream - by tempering his platform to attract more establishment support to his candidacy, he risks alienating the die-hard supporters that propelled his father's campaigns.
There's also the problem of Rand Paul's Republican Senate colleagues and potential 2016 rivals, particularly Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., both tea party favorites who could speak to Paul's base of supporters but avoid being pigeonholed by the Paul name.
Like Paul, Cruz and Rubio both waged successful insurgent campaigns to claim their Senate seats, defeating establishment-picked primary candidates and becoming conservative darlings in the process.
Cruz, in particular, has emerged alongside Paul as a high-profile opponent of the Obama administration's drone policy. He joined Paul in filibustering the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan and has also earned plaudits from the conservative base for his shellacking of recent gun control proposals.
If Paul begins to seem torn between his libertarian base and the establishment, Cruz could conceivably step in to usurp Paul's supporters without provoking angst among the old guard.
Ultimately, however, the fact that more Republicans are co-opting Paul's brand of conservatism could work to his benefit. The old guard is hardly running the show any more, and some analysts have observed that the GOP seems to be moving in Paul's direction: less muscular, less interventionist on foreign policy, more laissez-faire on social policy. That shift among Republicans could place Paul more squarely in the center of GOP public opinion by the time 2016 comes around.
"When he made his filibuster on the drone issue," Bonjean noted, "The Republican leadership, including Mitch McConnell, joined in, because he was igniting enthusiasm."
Regardless of how the next few years play out, Bonjean said, Paul has his work cut out for him: "He has to do more than just hold a filibuster on the floor...He still has to continue to lay out the policies he stands for and keep building on that foundation before he'd be considered a real candidate."
"There's a lot of things that could trip him up," added the Paul adviser. "It's a hazardous marathon."