Welcome to the new era of opposition research — one that is supercharged by SuperPACs and flung far and wide by Twitter. YouTube is soooo 2008.

In his Special Report “The golden age of oppo research”, our correspondent Tim Reid tells us that the combination of abundant money (post-Citizens United decision ) and great technology will take opposition research to a new level in 2012. Karl Rove’s  SuperPAC American Crossroads alone plans to spend $240 million on this election cycle, mostly attacking Democratic candidates.

For all those thinking about new job opportunities in this growth industry, think again. As a 32-year-old retired researcher tells Tim, this is a young person’s game, and “the hours are brutal.”

That said, old opposition research has incredible stamina. A dossier assembled by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s campaign when he was challenged by Mitt Romney in 1994 remains a rich source on Romney’s career at Bain Capital, where some of his takeover deals resulted in layoffs and benefit cuts. Count on the Democratic strategists to give new life to that old yarn if Romney wins the GOP nomination.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

The golden age of oppo research
“The hours are brutal,” but the rules are simple: Define your opponent early. Work as many hours as it takes. Get whatever you can on the other guy – as long as it’s legal and won’t come back to haunt you. “This is a golden age” of opposition research, said Jeff Berkowitz, who dug dirt on Democratic candidates for the Republican National committee from 2002 to 2010. The sort of search tools that discovered presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plagiarism in 1987 have become more sophisticated and the outlets to shop damaging information are now virtually unlimited.