2016 Republican candidates: Where are they now?

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composite of dropped out candidates and what current candidate they back

In the zombie apocalypse, the dead rise to roam the earth. In the final days of the 2016 primary campaign, departed candidates are crawling from their political graves to haunt living candidates.

It's a time-honoured tradition for vanquished presidential aspirants to be wooed by winning campaigns looking to benefit from their fundraising prowess or popular support. This year is only different in the sheer number of ex-candidates out there to be fought over.

Not everyone is playing this game, of course. None of the Democratic also-rans has yet to express a preference. And some of the Republicans, like Rand Paul, seem so disgusted by the process that they'd rather treat the campaign experience as a bad dream.

But here's a quick rundown of those who just can't quit the game - an electoral version of "where are they now?"

Team Trump

Chris Christie

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Chris Christie appeared alongside Donald Trump in Florida

As far as ex-candidate endorsements go, this was by far the most earth-shattering. Few thought the New Jersey governor, who had spent his campaign currying the favour of the Republican establishment, would back the iconoclast New York real estate mogul.

There he was on stage, explaining how Mr Trump was writing a new playbook for political campaigns. Then, in event after event, he stood stony-faced, unblinking behind his new top dog, as some wondered if he was the victim of an elaborate kidnapping/brainwashing plot.

At one point Mr Trump was caught on a live microphone telling Mr Christie to "get in the plane and go home". Another time, the New Yorker slammed Ohio Governor John Kasich by saying he was an "absentee governor" - then noting with a laugh that he spent more time out of his home state than Mr Christie did.

"I hate to do that," he told the New Jersey governor, "but I had to make my point."

The Christie endorsement represented the point at which it began to sink in for many in the party that Mr Trump was legitimately moving toward winning the nomination. If a practical politician like Mr Christie could read the writing on the wall, perhaps they should too.

Ben Carson

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Dr Ben Carson has endorsed Donald Trump - but what did the rivals say about each other four months ago?

It's an unwritten rule in politics that an ex-candidate reap some sort of benefit from offering their endorsement, whether it's help retiring campaign debt, a plum administration post or even a spot on the ticket as vice-president.

After Mr Carson endorsed Mr Trump, however, he came right out and said that he would "certainly" have a role in a Trump presidency "in an advisory capacity".

Part of the reason that rule is unwritten is that an endorsement in direct exchange for political benefits is, technically, a violation of federal law. People can, and have, gone to prison for it.

Even as a surrogate, Mr Carson hasn't always been the most nimble - occasionally damning his former rival with faint praise.

"The way I look at it, even if Donald Trump turns out not to be such a great president, which I don't think is the case, I think he's going to surround himself with really good people," Mr Carson said in an interview.

Given that Mr Carson sees a spot for himself in the Trump administration, I guess that view is understandable.

Team Cruz

Jeb Bush

Image source, Getty Images
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Jeb Bush says Mr Cruz is a "consistent, principled conservative"

If politics makes strange bedfellows, then Donald Trump is creating a veritable boarding house of unlikely pairings. The former Florida governor, the Republican establishment incarnate, recently cast his lot in with Ted Cruz, a man who explicitly campaigns against the "Washington cartel".

Mr Cruz had laboured through much of his campaign with hardly any high-profile endorsements. He was viewed by his fellow senators as a showboat who bucked leadership and didn't play nice with the other kids.

That has all changed now that the Texan is the last man standing between Mr Trump and the Republican nomination. (Yes, Mr Kasich is still running, but he is mathematically eliminated at this point.) Now Mr Bush is touting Mr Cruz as a "consistent, principled conservative".

The news of the endorsement prompted a particularly snarky tweet from Mr Trump.

"Low energy Jeb Bush just endorsed a man he truly hates, Lyin' Ted Cruz," he wrote. "Honestly, I can't blame Jeb in that I drove him into oblivion!"

The New Yorker just couldn't resist taking one more swipe at his favourite punching bag.

Lindsey Graham

Image source, Getty Images
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Lindsey Graham ended his presidential bid in December

Not only did the South Carolina senator endorse Mr Bush shortly after he ended his own presidential bid, he spent much of the past few months bashing Mr Cruz.

He followed the Texas senator on stage at the Republican Jewish Coalition in December and went off-script to criticise what he said was the candidate's hard-line views on abortion rights.

In January he quipped that choosing between Mr Trump and Mr Cruz was like picking between being shot or being poisoned.

Fast-forward two months, as Mr Trump continues to rack up delegates, and maybe poisoning isn't so bad after all.

"This is an odd moment, I'll be first to say," he said when asked why he was endorsing Mr Cruz and even hosting a fundraiser for him.

"Odd" is an understatement, given how the 2016 campaign has played out.

Carly Fiorina

Image source, Getty Images
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Carly Fiorina has described Mr Cruz as a "fearless fighter against the Washington cartel"

The former computing company executive has been quite the good soldier for the Texas senator.

She threw her support behind Mr Cruz at a Miami rally the week before the Florida Republican primary, worked the spin room after the Republican debate the next day and served as a warm-up act for Mr Cruz at his "victory" rally in Houston on a night when he did not, in fact, post any victories.

"Donald does not represent me, and he does not represent my party," she said, taking a shot at the man who has been steadily opening up a lead over Mr Cruz in the delegate count. "There is only one fearless fighter against the Washington cartel - Ted Cruz."

Rick Perry

Image source, Reuters
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Rick Perry was the first GOP candidate to withdraw from the race - he has since been out on the campaign trail for Mr Cruz

The ex-governor was an early flameout in the presidential race and is now an active campaigner for his fellow Texan.

There have been a few awkward moments, however. In February he told an interviewer that he might consider offering himself for consideration in the event of an open Republican convention. In March Mr Perry's name was floated as a possible independent candidate alternative for conservatives fleeing the party if Mr Trump wins the nomination.

Presidential fever can be difficult to contain, it seems.

"@Governor Perry has no interest in running as a 3rd party candidate," former Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller tweeted after the New York Times reported on the rumours. "For the good of the country, he wants the GOP to unite around @tedcruz."

Drop-out Inception - Marco Rubio's backers

Bobby Jindal

Image source, AP
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Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio in happier times for the Florida senator

What's worse than dropping out months before a ballot has been cast? How about throwing your support behind a candidate who tanks once voting begins in earnest? Such was Mr Jindal's fate.

The Louisiana governor bought a ticket on the Marco Rubio express shortly before it went careening off the tracks thanks to the Florida senator's evisceration at the hands of Mr Christie during a debate in New Hampshire.

Unlike Mr Graham, Mr Jindal has yet to fall in (political) love again, although he recently said he'd support Mr Trump if he wins the nomination but added, "I hope it's not him."

Rick Santorum

Image source, Getty Images
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Rick Santorum threw his support behind Mr Rubio - even if he was a little short on detail

The former Pennsylvania senator was another ex-candidate who flocked to Mr Rubio after he posted a surprisingly strong third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Things didn't go well in Mr Santorum's first turn as a Rubio surrogate, however. When asked to name a few of his new political champion's top accomplishments, he blanked.

"If you look at being in the minority in the United States Senate in a year when nothing got - four years where nothing got done, I guess it's hard to say there are accomplishments," he said."I mean, tell me what happened during that four years that was an accomplishment for anybody?"

When Mr Santorum was reminded that Republicans have controlled the Senate for two years, he said Mr Rubio had spent a lot of that time campaigning for president - which is probably not the message the Rubio team wanted to push.

That was pretty much the end of Mr Santorum's days as a Rubio surrogate.

George Pataki

Image source, AFP
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George Pataki (in case you were wondering)

He ran for president. It didn't get a lot of media coverage. He also endorsed Rubio in a Twitter post. That didn't get a lot of coverage either.

Republican candidates in, and out, of the 2016 presidential race