But their biggest payoff would be helping to elect GOP senators because a Republican Senate would allow the trio of presidential wannabes to help set the agenda. If congressional Republicans can send legislation to the White House only to be blocked by President Barack Obama’s veto, it becomes that much easier for Rubio, Paul and Cruz to make their cases in 2016.

Winning the Senate carries its own pitfalls for them, particularly if a narrow Republican majority struggles to unite the caucus’ business and conservative wings. But that scenario is preferable to another two years of Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) forcing GOP presidential candidates into voting down Democratic initiatives like raising the minimum wage and gender pay equity.

Those high stakes in mind, Paul, Cruz and Rubio spent the waning days of the 2014 election on the front lines of the battle for the Senate. Cruz swooped into Alaska this weekend to help Dan Sullivan oust Democratic Sen. Mark Begich. Rubio was a big draw last week in Iowa, where a win by Republican Joni Ernst is viewed as a majority maker. And Paul spent Monday doing a fast-paced statewide tour with McConnell in Kentucky.