Our posts on primaries and conventions, along with the prospect of directing my students' reporting on the New Jersey primary, have strengthened my interest in the nomination process.
In my efforts to educate myself, I've found the sites and pieces below very helpful.
For a general introduction to the primaries, check out this page at about.com. It is by no means definitive, but it gives a good overview of the large issues (open versus closed primaries, methods of allocating delegates) that you need to understand.
In the New York Sun, "Electoral Quirks Are Poser in Nominating Process" takes you one step deeper into the issue and lays out the party rules and state-by-state complications that define the process.
For a great summary of how the particularities of party regulations shape the primaries in New Jersey, go the the Star-Ledger for "A Primer on New Jersey's Presidential Primary."
And finally, to keep track of it all, the New York Times' "Election Guide 2008" offers state-by-state profiles of the primary races and more.
For what it is worth, and my opinion is based on the interesting analysis in the Sun, so far the closeness of the Democratic race-- and the Democrats' system of apportioning delegates proportionally, according to how many votes each candidate gets in the primary--raises the possibility that the Democratic race could conceivably go to the convention.
If that happens, Senator Clinton, with her strong party ties dating to her husband's presidency, would likely enjoy an advantage because she would presumably get the votes of the party's super delegates--delegates to the convention selected from party leaders and activists without regard to primary results.
Remember, at this point the Clinton/super delegate question is hypothetical, but it illustrates how party nominating procedures do play a role in determining the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of candidates.
And the need for the most reliable information you can find to understand this process. If you have any suggestions, don't hesitate to chime in.