In the 2016 Republican presidential race, that player/candidate is Rand Paul.
But dig a little deeper, and you see Paul's potential. Moreso than any other candidate, Paul seems to have real paths to victory in both states -- something that has never happened before. It's far too early to say with any certainty what will happen (and we can't emphasize the limited value of early polling enough) but the potential is clearly there.
1) He is at least tied for first in both states
The Iowa poll has the Kentucky senator deadlocked with Jeb Bush at 12 percent, while the New Hampshire poll has him in front of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 14-13. In neither state does he have a big lead -- or even a statistically significant one -- but that fact that he's at or near the top is notable.
2) He is also the second choice for a lot of voters
Paul is the first or second choice of 22 percent of voters in Iowa and 26 percent of voters in New Hampshire. If you add up all the first and second choices in each state, Paul comes out slightly ahead of the better-known Bush (48-47) and well ahead of everybody else.
In other words, Paul is on the radar screens of more voters in the two earliest presidential nominating contests than anybody else. And that helps.
3) Nobody else has that kind of appeal right now
It's very rare that a presidential candidate excels in both of the two early states, given Iowa is dominated by evangelical Christians and New Hampshire has a more moderate bent. And it's generally assumed that any candidate who wins both of would likely end the race right then and there -- as was (essentially) the case on the Democratic side in 2004 with John Kerry.
Paul's unusual profile appears to have appeal to these disparate constituencies. He has spent considerable time appealing to the kind of Christians you'd see in Iowa, but his libertarian streak fits nicely with New Hampshire as well. He talks to both tea party crowds and to non-traditional Republican groups, including historically black colleges.
By contrast, Christie is likely to find tough sledding in Iowa, and candidates like Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum aren't as well-suited to appeal to Northeastern Republicans.
Paul isn't the only one who could seems capable of pulling off an unprecedented two-state sweep, but for now, he seems to have the best chance.