2016 Candidates You Probably Thought Were Out Of The Race, But Aren't

In an interview with CNN on Friday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum explained that the 2016 GOP race was still "wide open," despite several polls placing Santorum himself at less than 1 percent. The senator's comments came on the heels of statements made by Donald Trump earlier this week, in which the billionaire real estate mogul called for low-polling candidates to drop out of the race. The most surprising thing about Santorum's comments, however, wasn't that he believed what he was saying, but rather that he was still around to make them at all. In fact, Santorum is just one of a handful of 2016 candidates you probably thought were already out of the race.

It's a strange sensation, seeing candidates like Santorum on the national debate stage — sort of like when someone tells you that Angela Lansbury is still alive (thank god). Your first reaction isn't necessarily one of shock, but rather a sense of confusion and betrayal. Rick Santorum is still in the race? Why is he still in the race? Why didn't anyone tell me he was still in the race?!

Whether you're still able to keep tabs on the enormous 2016 field or not, when debate time rolls around on Nov. 10, there are likely going to be more than a few surprising faces lingering around the edges of the Fox Business stage:

Rick Santorum

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"This is a wide open race right now," Santorum told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Friday. "Anything can happen, and the idea that we’re going to start culling candidates or creating top tiers and bottom tiers which is what he national party and the networks have done to me is a travesty to this election."

When Santorum says "anything" could happen, is he including his own campaign's demise? Because so far, it's certainly looking that way. According to a Real Clear Politics average, Santorum is dangling at the bottom of the GOP heap with around 0.8 percent of the prospective vote — and despite his insistence that candidates are selected on a state by state basis, even a Public Policy Poll in Iowa this week (a state that Santorum bragged about winning in the last primary) put him at just 2 percent — far behind similarly right-wing candidates like Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.

With Carson surging in the polls and Trump busy bad-mouthing everyone else, Santorum is the last person on anyone's mind right now. Better luck in 2020, Rick.

George Pataki

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You're probably thinking, "Wait — who's George Pataki?" You're not alone. Despite being elected as New York governor for three consecutive terms, Pataki was never able to break into the big leagues the way his more controversial Republican colleagues have. Still, the former governor has put up a good fight considering how easy it is to get lost in the current field of GOP candidates. Pataki's problem is one that's plagued every moderate good guy or generally decent human being running for president since the dawn of time — his relatively inclusive stances don't cause waves, which makes him largely forgettable.

"I am very disappointed tonight that early national polls are shaping the election choices for the American people," a dejected Pataki said in a statement on Thursday, after learning that he had once again been booted to the earlier kiddie-table debate just before the main showdown on Tuesday next week. "This new trend is a danger to our primary system [and] a disservice to voters everywhere."

Lagging behind the remainder of the GOP field with an average of 0 percent (yep, zero), it probably won't be long before Pataki's camp calls it a day and drops out.

Bobby Jindal

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Bobby Jindal has been relatively absent from the media spotlight of late. Outrageous statements from rival Carson and a visibly crumbling Jeb Bush campaign have been hogging the headlines for the most part, leaving the Louisiana governor and his team scrambling. Of course, it doesn't help that Jindal barely even made a splash when he entered the race initially (seriously — what was up with the bizarre, hidden-camera announcement video?). That doesn't mean a few influential names aren't doing everything in their power to help him, though.

"Jindal has campaigned hard in Iowa respecting the state’s first in the nation status and tradition of retail politics," wrote conservative Iowa blog Caffeinated Thoughts this week, endorsing the Louisiana governor for president. "This hard work is starting to bear fruit with a rise in Iowa polling without having a presence at prime-time debates."

It's a nice sentiment, to be sure. But given that Jindal is barely registering in the GOP polls (a Real Clear Politics aggregate put him at around 0.5 percent overall), there's only so many more kiddie-table debates Jindal can attend before he goes the way of dropouts like Scott Walker and Rick Perry, both of whom left more definitive footprints on the Republican field during their short time campaigning than Jindal ever has.

Rand Paul

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Poor Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator has worked hard to establish himself as the "alternative" candidate for those who don't feel connected to the right-wing base, but even with his heartfelt efforts and acceptable poll numbers, he continues to linger at the back of the primetime pack. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that Paul has been beaten down by front-runners like Trump any time he tries to open his mouth — but a good portion of it has to do with what can be referred to as "Rand-fatigue."

"Does Rand Paul even want to run for president anymore?" joked Salon's Simon Maloy this week, lamenting the stubborn senator's exhausted attempt at the White House. "At last week’s debate [...] it was impossible to escape the impression that the Kentucky senator didn’t really want to be there, and didn’t want to put up with the nonsense required of a presidential candidate."

Maloy isn't too far off base. Between attempting to shut down Trump's ad hominem attacks and wearily trying to bolster the libertarian wing of the party to no avail, it seems both the public and Paul have begun to sour on the idea of continuing on down the 2016 road — but honestly, can you blame him?