As this article explains, there are only three main categories you need to know:
- The invisible primary leader, which would more clearly be called 'the clear frontrunner'
- Mainstream alternatives
- Factional favorites
With these categories, it's not hard to categorize each of the GOP candidates. Jeb Bush started as the clear frontrunner, just like Mitt Romney did in 2012. It's questionable whether Jeb can maintain that status because he isn't wrapping up the donations as well as Romney did. However, if Jeb falters as frontrunner, the race becomes wide open, with no one as frontrunner.
When no one is frontrunner, the nominee will almost certainly come from among the mainstream 'others.' They each fit the mold of who the party typically would nominate. That makes it hard to predict which among them will eventually win.
The final category is for the misfits who don't fit the party's usual mold. This is where the firebreathers, no-hopers, vanity candidates, and libertarians go.
Definitely read the article. Don't be put off by the trendy, garish graphics. The clarity of the explanations is wonderful.
Extra. In contrast to the clarity in the NYT article, here is Mark Halperin scoring CPAC speakers on theatrics and hollowness. Excellent for a laugh.