The 2016 Republican presidential primary features the most unpredictable field in five decades — and nowhere is more determinant to their future than New Hampshire. The Granite State hosts a must-win primary for many of the more than 20 Republicans looking at the White House race.
It’s one reason why 19 Republican hopefuls are scheduled to speak at a two-day fund-raiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party in Nashua on Friday and Saturday. To herald this unofficial primary kickoff, the Globe has ranked the prospects of the top 10 Republican candidates in the Granite State, followed by the rest in alphabetical order.
Three criteria determined these rankings: fund-raising prowess, recent public polling in the state, and sophistication of ground operations. These rankings will be updated continuously until next year’s primary.
Two more potential candidates — former US senator Rick Santorum and Dr. Ben Carson — are not listed because they are not attending the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit.
For live coverage of this weekend’s events, visit www.bostonglobe.com/fitn
1. Jeb Bush, former governor
While the Floridian tops the list, don’t call him the front-runner. He has advantages like cash flow, seasoned staff, and a profile that could appeal to the largest swath of New Hampshire GOP primary voters. But he’s just barely ahead of . . .
2. Scott Walker, governor
Traditionally, there’s a moderate candidate and a more conservative option topping the primary field. For now, Wisconsin’s governor plays the part of the latter — but it’s also easy to see him as the flavor of the moment.
3. Rand Paul, senator
The Kentuckian’s father finished second in the 2012 primary with 23 percent, giving Paul a strong Granite State base. And with so many candidates in 2016, the winner of the state primary could claim victory with less than that portion of support.
4. Chris Christie, governor
If he can cross his bridge over troubled water, there is no one better at working a town hall meeting or doing a downtown walk than Christie. New Hampshire should be Christie country — if not for his issues at home in New Jersey.
5. Donald Trump, New York businessman
If he is being serious this time — a big if — some less engaged voters will be drawn to his celebrity and entertainment value. Reminder: It won’t take much to score high single-digits in a large primary field.
6. Ted Cruz, senator
The Texan is riding high because he’ll probably do well in the Iowa, where his base — Christian conservatives — turn out for the caucuses. A strong Hawkeye State showing would make him a consensus social conservative candidate among New Hampshire primary voters.
7. Marco Rubio, senator
If Rubio were a stock, it would be smart to buy him. The Floridian is a good candidate and has experienced aides on the team. The issue? His path in the early primary states, including New Hampshire, is unclear — unless his competition falls in the rankings.
8. George Pataki, former governor
He last ran for office in New York in 2002, but his singular focus on New Hampshire means he’s nabbed endorsements, including two of the 14 GOP state senators.
9. Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO
She has never been elected to office and cut jobs at HP’s Nashua facility during her tenure. But she’s the only woman in the field and has been aggressively courting activist support.
10. Rick Perry, former governor
Humbled after his rough 2012 campaign, the Texan is trying to build a robust Granite State operation. But his moment may have passed.
John Bolton, former UN ambassador
So far, his candidacy is based on protesting Paul’s foreign policy positions.
Bob Ehrlich, former governor
Most notably, the Marylander lost to likely Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley. Twice.
Jim Gilmore, former governor
Gilmore last ran for office in 1997, and it’s the second time the Virginian has considered a White House bid.
Lindsey Graham, senator
The South Carolinian’s close relationship with a two-time N.H. primary winner, John McCain, could provide him a road map.
Mike Huckabee, former governor
The Arkansan finished third in New Hampshire after winning the Iowa caucuses in 2008. He is not expected to spend much time in the Granite State.
Bobby Jindal, governor
It’s unclear how the Rhodes Scholar from Louisiana will distinguish himself. He’s more focused on Iowa anyway.
John Kasich, governor
He hails from the swing state of Ohio — his most positive differentiator in this field.
Peter King, representative
This is the New Yorker’s first trip to New Hampshire since August — making it unlikely he’s serious about running.
Dennis Michael Lynch, film producer
The FITN summit is the first time he has been allowed to address a crowd in New Hampshire. Probably not a coincidence: He’s also a “Platinum Sponsor” of this weekend’s event. So there’s that.