As always, The Note does some of the best political reporting, summarizing. Read the whole thing, but definitely see the excerpt below:

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean leads the Democratic presidential field in the important battle for so-called “superdelegates,” according to a new ABC News estimate — the first survey of its kind done this election cycle.

Dean has amassed approximately 30 superdelegates more than his closest opponent.

The ABC News superdelegate estimate as of Sunday January 4, 2004 10:00 am ET:

Howard Dean 90
John Kerry 59
Dick Gephardt 48
Wesley Clark 24
Joe Lieberman 20
John Edwards 16
Carol Moseley Braun 4
Al Sharpton 3
Dennis Kucinich 2

While there have been previous canvasses of congressional endorsements and one or two of DNC members — both of which make up a portion of the superdelegates — this ABC News exclusive is the first time any news organization has compiled an overall tally of the current delegate race — made up of commitments from the party activists and leaders, local elected officials, current Democratic governors and members of Congress, and former presidents, vice presidents, congressional leaders, and DNC chairs.

All are, under party rules, automatic, unelected, and voting delegates to the convention in Boston this summer.

These delegates can choose whomever they wish for the nomination, and can change their minds and public positions on whom they support as often as they wish before the summer.

Given the categories which comprise this group, support in the superdelegate community is one sign of support within the Democratic establishment for Dean’s candidacy. This might surprise some observers, and alarm his rivals, since Dean has waged a rhetorical war against the party and its leaders, many of whom dread the prospect of his nomination.

Not one voter has yet to attend a caucus meeting or enter a voting booth to express his or her preference in this year’s Democratic presidential nomination contest. However, the race is well underway and the candidates have begun to rack up some of this key support in their quest for the nomination.

The political press place a lot of attention on fundraising, polls, media attention, and momentum, but in the end there is only one way to secure the Democratic nomination for president. The candidate who wins 2,161 delegate votes by July’s convention will be the Democratic Party’s nominee to challenge President Bush.

And as in many other categories, Howard Dean is out in front of his competitors in the race to collect delegates — and he’s also the Time and Newsweek cover boy this week for the second time each.

There are two types of delegates who will attend the convention. Pledged delegates are required to support a candidate based on the results of their home state’s caucuses or primary. Unpledged delegates — these superdelegates — are free to vote for the candidate of their choosing.

Many of the publicly committed superdelegates hail from the home state of the candidates they are supporting.

DNC delegate breakdown:

Pledged delegates at stake: 3,520

Unpledged or “Superdelegates” at stake: 801

Total delegate votes at stake: 4,321

Delegate votes needed for nomination: 2,161

As you can see, the superdelegate votes at stake make up a significant portion (37 percent) of the total delegate votes needed to secure the nomination and therefore the campaigns (some better than others) have been diligently courting these superdelegates for quite a while. However, many of these Democratic Party activists and leaders are still uncommitted to any candidate.