David Broder has passed away at the age of 81. The internet is already full of tributes, with many more to come. But this one by Dan Balz, Broder's colleague from the Washington Post, captures what made Broder so unique among veteran political writers:

His secret was no secret at all. He was a tireless reporter. He wrote two columns a week for most of the past 40 years, but for almost that entire time he carried a full load as a reporter on The Post's national staff. As influential as he was as a columnist, he considered himself a reporter first and foremost.

Except for a handful of brief encounters, I knew Broder only through his work, including the book he co-wrote on the Clinton Administration's failed health care reform effort. (The book, which is called The System, remains the most detailed and authoritative source available.) But Balz' description certainly rings true. On those few occasions when I did see or meet Broder personally, it was usually while he was covering a presidential campaign--and, unlike so many other correspondents, taking the time to interview voters one-on-one. As Balz says:

Above all, he believed that campaigns should belong to the voters, not to candidates or the media. He sought them out. He knocked on their doors - literally - in precincts carefully selected for their voting patterns.
This is old-fashioned reporting, hard but rewarding. Dave did it until the very end of his days. Hour after hour, as darkness fell on a chill autumn evening or in the heat of a summer Saturday, he would trudge up and down the streets of towns across the country, inviting himself in to hear a father's fears, a mother's hopes, a family's aspirations.