WASHINGTON -- David Broder, one of the nation's premier political reporters for decades, was a curious mix of old and new.
He combined unglamorous shoe-leather reporting with a knack for detecting trends ahead of his competitors. A rumpled dresser with thick glasses and a shirt pocket full of pens and pencils, he was constantly in demand by good-looking TV news hosts who craved the insights and knowledge he had gained while covering every presidential campaign since 1960.
The Washington Post reporter and columnist earned the unofficial title "dean" of political reporters as a comparatively young man. But he kept working until his 80s, sometimes typing away in an incredibly cluttered office late at night or on Sundays in a nearly empty newsroom.
Broder, who was 81 when he died yesterday of complications from diabetes, was so renowned for his evenhanded, down-the-middle approach that politicians spent years debating whether he was at heart a Republican or Democrat.
Accolades poured in yesterday. President Barack Obama said Broder "built a well-deserved reputation as the most respected and incisive political commentator of his generation." Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Broder "set the standard for modern political reporting and analysis."
Broder never rested on his fame, or hogged it. He would dig into his massive Rolodex to provide sources for the greenest of reporters at the Post. He sometimes surprised copy editors by thanking them for improving his articles.
While famous for covering presidential elections, Broder was happiest among mayors and governors. They were closer to the voters, he said, and more attuned to their communities' changing moods and fortunes.
Broder was familiar to television viewers as a panelist on programs such as PBS' "Washington Week" and NBC's "Meet the Press." He appeared on the NBC program more than 400 times, far more than any other journalist in the show's history.
He was the rare journalist who combined straight news reporting with a regular column on politics. A 2007 study by the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters found that Broder was second among columnists only to George Will in the combined circulation of papers in which his column appeared.
Among the books he wrote or co-wrote were "Behind the Front Page," "Dan Quayle: The Man Who Would Be President" and "Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money." Starting in 2001, Broder was a journalism professor at the University of Maryland. He also taught for a time at Duke University.
In 2008, he took a buyout from the Post, but he continued writing his twice-weekly syndicated column.
A native of Chicago Heights, Ill., and a graduate of the University of Chicago, he served in the Army from 1951 to 1953 and began his career at the Congressional Quarterly, The Washington Star and The New York Times.