ABC put together an estimate of the number of delegates won by each of the Republican candidates for the presidential nomination so far.

Donald Trump in the lead with 17. Ted Cruz in second with 11. So with a slew of one-time candidates (like Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie) out of the race thanks to the all-important Iowa and New Hampshire contests, Trump is only (takes out calculator) about 1,200 delegates short of the nomination.

In other words: After all of the "here's how caucuses work" and the "who can put together a turnout effort in New Hampshire" stuff, the leader in the Republican contest has 1.3 percent of the delegates he needs to win. Assuming that ABC's estimates are accurate. And excluding the fact that Fiorina's dropping out looses her one delegate to the winds of fate.

The party primaries are party-run, with rules set at the top but implemented in 50 different ways. More than 50 ways, including the delegates awarded by territories. Dozens and dozens of ways. So, with voting underway, here's our beginner's guide.

The Republicans

FrontloadingHQ, an invaluable site for tracking the demented evolution of this process, created graphs showing how many new delegates were added each day of the year and the running cumulative total. We stole that idea to make our own charts. Here's what the Republicans' looks like.

Those tiny little red bars at the beginning are the tiny delegate apportionments from the tiny states of Iowa and New Hampshire. The also-small bars that follow are South Carolina and Nevada. By Super Tuesday, March 1, things get real -- and by March 15, fully half of all of the delegates that will be awarded will be given out.

March 15 marks another important moment. It's the date on which states are allowed to start handing all of their delegates to whoever wins the state, should they wish to do so, instead of having to parcel them out based on the percentage each candidate earns. In other words, if that winner-take-all standard had applied in New Hampshire and Iowa, Trump would have gotten all of New Hampshire's 23 delegates and Cruz all of Iowa's 30. (Except that there are some delegates who aren't bound to candidates, except maybe they are. Let's just skip this for now.)

Not every state that votes/caucuses after March 15 will be winner-take-all. Here's how the allocation will work in each state, from our look at how a brokered Republican convention would work. "Proportional" contests divvy up delegates based on the percentage of the vote -- often with a minimum required percentage. (Rubio's having surpassed 10 percent of the vote in New Hampshire was important because it put him over the threshhold to get any delegates in the state. "Proportional/winner-take-all" states give the winner a set number of delegates and divvy up the rest. And then there are other systems, such as in California, where delegates are allocated based on congressional district results.

Since the math for delegate allocation depends on final vote tallies and hitting benchmarks and rounding up or down and a number of other factors, news outlets like ABC have to do their best to get the complicated math right. It's an estimate.

And it's messy. But it could be worse.

The Democrats

For example, it could be the Democratic process.

In general, the allocation of Democratic delegates looks similar to that of the Republicans.

The Democrats also have complicated rules and margins and percentages. But notice the little stipulation in that chart above: "Excludes superdelegates."

The chart above shows the 4,000-plus delegates who are awarded by the votes/caucuses/conventions in the states. It does not include the 712 superdelegates, who can vote for whoever they want. So when Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire by a wide margin, the Daily Caller estimated, he got 13 of the state's 24 pledged delegates to Clinton's 9, with 2 unallocated. But the state also has eight superdelegates, six of whom are backing Clinton. That's 15 delegates for Clinton from New Hampshire to 13 for Sanders, with four (2 pledged and 2 super) not committed. Win for Hillary!

According to Bloomberg's count (meaning the media outlet, not the possible candidate), Clinton already has nearly 400 delegates to Sanders's 44, thanks to superdelegates who have committed to supporting her.

In 2008, this was a source of enormous consternation: What if Obama won the pledged delegates but Clinton swamped him with an advantage among superdelegates? Happily for the party, that was avoided eight years ago. But the goofy maintenance of superdelegates raises that specter once again.

(Here's where we come back to the part about unbound Republican delegates we mentioned above. There are some unbound delegates in the Republican process --mostly party chairs and other big shots -- who could theoretically vote as the Democratic superdelegates do but according to FrontloadingHQ, the national party is mandating that they follow the vote in their states.)

The parties aren't stupid. They are balancing several often-conflicting needs: Let the states do their own thing, avoid a problematic convention and get this over with as soon as possible. The Democrats, until about six months ago, figured they were in the clear in 2016, thanks to the dominance of Hillary Clinton. The Republicans figured that there would be an interesting contest between experienced Republican politicians, with a smooth landing facilitated by a process they deliberately streamlined after 2012.

Nope.