The obvious problem when sitting down (or standing up) and trying to rank the 10 people most likely to wind up as the Republican presidential nominee next year can be summed up in two words: Donald Trump.

On one hand, Trump is way ahead in most national polls on the primary race and even leads (or comes close to leading) in surveys conducted in early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

On the other, he is Donald Trump.

(The last time I ranked the 2016 GOP field -- June 12 -- Trump was barely a blip on the radar and didn't crack the top 10.)

I put the question of where to rank Trump to the Twitter world on Thursday afternoon -- and the responses were, well, all over the place.

I also put the Trump question to the five senior Republican strategists who aren't working for one of the 17 GOPers running for the nomination currently. (I kid; there are at least 10 unaligned GOP operatives.) What I got back from that group surprised me: They were much more bullish on Trump's chances than I expected -- with several arguing that Trump absolutely belonged in the top tier.

I won't spoil the surprise as to where The Donald wound up.  You have to scroll down for that. Remember that the candidates are ranked by their likelihood of winding up as the Republican nominee next year. And, remember too that there are a lot of months between now and then. So, these ratings can and will change.

10. Ben Carson: Carson's name came up quite a bit during my conversations with Republicans watching the race closely.  Not that the famed pediatric neurosurgeon would win but that he would likely stick around for an extended period of time in the race due to his very loyal core group of supporters.  It's worth noting that while people like Chris Christie and Rick Perry are fighting to stay in the top 10 for next week's debate, Carson has been solidly in the top 10 for quite a while now. (Previous ranking: N/A)

 9. Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor hangs on in the top 10 despite the fact that reports out of New Hampshire aren't all that encouraging. Why? Because I still think he is one of the most naturally talented candidates in the field and , at some point over the next six months, will get a second look from some GOP voters. But, he's clearly nowhere close to where he wants to be. (Previous ranking: 8)

8.  Rand Paul: There's one race that the Kentucky Senator is winning going away at the moment: Most disappointing candidate. Paul's fundraising -- both for his campaign committee and his super PAC -- were dismal and there seems to be dissension within his campaign ranks. Paul appears to be going back to his libertarian roots to regain his footing; that's a good move for his chances of remaining in the race for an extended period of time but likely decreases his chances of actually winning. (Previous ranking: 6)

7. Mike Huckabee Huckabee is going to Huckabee.  The former Arkansas governor has always been a poor fundraiser -- and he kept up that reputation over the first six months of the year. He's also viewed himself as a major player in the culture wars too, which gets him into trouble with mainstream America fairly regularly. (The latest: His ill-advised "ovens" comment about Israelis and the Iran deal.)  Huckabee is talented. But he just never seems to get that talent isn't enough. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. Ted Cruz: Cruz's great strength in this race has long been that he was unchallenged for the tea party lane. Well, now Trump has barged into that lane and, for the the moment, taken it over.  Cruz's latest dust-up with establishment Republicans in the Senate won't hurt him with voters but it ensures that that powerful group will be even more dead-set on keeping the nomination from him. Cruz will have enough money and is right on the issues for the Republican base. But, Trump's emergence badly complicates his path to the nomination. (Previous ranking: 4)

5. John Kasich: Early returns for the Ohio governor are promising. An ad buy in New Hampshire bumped up his numbers in that crucial early-voting state and his polling numbers have moved up nationally as well -- likely ensuring him a spot in the first debate in his home state next week.  That said, Kasich's announcement speech was, um, terrible, and if he can't find a more coherent (and short) message going forward that could be problematic. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Donald Trump: Yes, as of right now, Donald J. Trump is the fourth likeliest Republican to be the party's nominee.  I can't really believe it either. But Trump's poll numbers have not only risen rapidly but showed some level of durability, and every Republican strategist I talked to put him in the top four -- and many ranked him as high as two or three.  I still don't know if Trump can sustain his appeal with voters but as of today, it is what it is. (And, yes, I hate that phrase.) (Previous ranking: N/A)

3. Scott Walker: The Wisconsin governor has withstood the Trump Bump in Iowa and still looks like a favorite to win the first-in-the-nation caucuses there next February.  Among the Republicans I spoke with, real doubts remain about how ready Walker is for the big stage and how talented he actually is as a candidate.  I think his performance thus far has been mediocre with occasional moments of good to very good. Is that enough? (Previous ranking: 3)

2. Marco Rubio: There's no debate that the Florida Senator's poll numbers have dipped since the extended bump he received following his announcement. But, on the fundamentals, Rubio is in very good shape. His fundraising performance was quite strong, he remains the second choice of lots and lots of Republicans and conservative GOPers really like him. The most obvious problem for Rubio is that he doesn't have an early state where he is running very well; South Carolina seems his likeliest target. (Previous ranking: 1)

1. Jeb Bush: Amidst all of the Trumpiness of the race's last six week, the former Florida governor has looked more and more like the adult in the room -- the one guy willing to stand up and say
"Wait, a minute. What exactly are we doing here?"  Bush runs little risk in taking on Trump since Trump supporters are never going to be Bush supporters and vice versa.  Plus, Bush's $114 million raised is a stunning number that ensures he will be in the race for as long as he wants to be in it. One note: Bush still has problems with the GOP base. But, if Trump becomes the candidate of the GOP base, it
s hard to see Bush losing that one-on-one fight. (Previous ranking: 2)