In 1982, the American Enterprise Institute began a series that, almost 30 years later, has become a staple in Washington election analysis. Wednesday, AEI’s Election Watch 2012 will kick off with “a lively discussion about President Obama’s popularity, the Republican field, what the primary schedule means for the candidates, candidates’ cash on hand, and the other races we’re watching leading up to the 2012 elections.”

AEI scholars Michael Barone, Karlyn Bowman, Henry Olsen and Norman J. Ornstein will provide their analyses, but what’s absolutely worth collecting from each of the 10 or 12 sessions are the number-crunched handouts AEI provides (examples from the 2008 elections).

In one of my favorite Election Watch moments, just two days after Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential elections, AEI scholar John Fortier told a primarily conservative audience: A friend of mine called me this morning — he had seen John McCain shopping at Home Depot — apparently it was his only chance to put together his own cabinet.

Not all thought it was so funny.