Who Is In The First GOP Debate Of 2015? 10 Anxious Politicians Are Hoping To Make The Cut

Here's what happens when nearly every registered Republican wants to run for president: Just being allowed into the debate turns into a campaigning competition. Over the last month, the 16 GOP candidates have been running around Iowa and New Hampshire, scrambling to accrue more percentage points so they could show off their verbal skills in the first Republican debate of the election cycle. Only the top 10 GOP candidates will enter Thursday's debate, hosted by Fox News in Cleveland, and we'll know by 5 p.m. on Tuesday which 2016 hopefuls will be left watching in the wings. Who is in the first Republican debate of 2015? So far, there's only one sure thing: We will be getting yet another dose of Donald Trump realness.

Fox News laid out some pretty strict criteria for the first GOP debate, which already seems crowded when capped at 10 candidates. To nail down that final list, the news station is using the polling averages from the last five national polls released before Tuesday evening. "Such polling must be conducted by major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques," Fox News explained in its official statement.

At this time, CBS News, Monmouth University, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, Quinnipiac University, and Bloomberg are looking like the decided-upon polls, New York Magazine reportes. Fox News will also be using its own poll in addition to those recently released numbers. But, anything can change in these remaining hours, and some older polls could be swapped. In other words: anything goes except Donald Trump.

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With most of the polling data in Tuesday morning, it looks like the first GOP debate will be composed of the usual suspects and a few surprises. It also looks like it will be an all-male debate, with businesswoman Carly Fiorina most likely left hanging out in the cheap seats. According to The New York Times' Upshot blog, here's the speculative list of GOP debate contenders, in order of polling averages:

  1. Donald Trump (average: 21.4 percent)
  2. Jeb Bush (average: 12.6 percent)
  3. Gov. Scott Walker (average: 12.4 percent)
  4. Dr. Ben Carson (average: 6.2 percent)
  5. Mike Huckabee (average: 6.2 percent)
  6. Sen. Ted Cruz (average: 6 percent)
  7. Sen. Marco Rubio (average: 5.8 percent)
  8. Sen. Rand Paul (average: 5.6 percent)
  9. Gov. Chris Christie (average: 3.4 percent)
  10. Gov. John Kasich (average: 3.4 percent)
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Who does that leave out in the cold with Fiorina? Surprisingly, former Texas governor Rick Perry falls just short of the top 10, clinging to a polling average of 2.8 percent. 2012 underdog Rick Santorum is also trailing, along with Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Former New York governor George Pataki is currently in last place — just in case you forgot he was running. And Jim Gilmore's not even on the list at all, because apparently no one even knows who he is.

It's likely that Perry could sneak into the top 10 before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, taking the place of either Christie or Kasich. Candidates like Cruz, Paul and Rubio should remain sure bets, as well as favorites Walker and Bush. The biggest surprise inclusion, outside the astonishing Trump surge, is Carson, a doctor with no political experience. Huckabee, too, has continued to surprise in spite of his open support of the disgraced Duggar family and relatively low profile this campaign season.

But Trump, of course, will take center stage on Thursday. Only time and a few hardball questions from Megyn Kelly will tell how long his welcome will last.

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