Barbaro at the Gate: Bloomberg’s Times Gadfly Lands on Romney

Bloomberg staffers and Wall Street Journal reporters can breathe a sigh of relief. The New York Times’ roving political reporter Michael Barbaro is off the city politics beat.

Mr. Barbaro has recently been called up to the national desk for the 2012 Republican primary, and for now, he’s covering its biggest player, Mitt Romney.

It’s a conspicuous but logical promotion for Mr. Barbaro, who for the past three years has made a white whale out of the city’s own superrich politician on the Times front page, even while routinely scooping the tabloids on the City Room blog.

When Mayor Bloomberg began a campaign to improve New Yorker’s diet and nutrition, rather than get every other politician’s opinion on the nanny state, Mr. Barbaro persuaded the manager of Mayor Bloomberg’s local diner to dish on Hizzoner’s snacking habits.

It wasn’t enough for Mr. Barbaro reveal that the mayor had missed a handful important city events due to his habit of skipping off to Bermuda on weekends. Oh, no. Mr. Barbaro spent a week on the island retracing the man’s steps, detailing what the mayor orders at the local four-star restaurant and relaying a choice bit of gossip from the local golf club: apparently the Mayor can be a little slow on the links.

With his determined gait and emphatic eyebrows, Mr. Barbaro, 31, is a memorable but divisive figure around City Hall. For some, his departure will leave a vacuum of style the city’s political coverage, and for others, it will hasten a welcome return to a more sober news reporting on the beat.

What everyone seems to agree on is that, amid countless overtime hours disguised as breakfasts and drinks, Mr. Barbaro has carved out quite a niche on New York’s politics beat.

Mr. Barbaro’s interest in the minutiae of Mr. Bloomberg’s personal life is said to drive the mayor crazy, but it has not blinded the administration to his intelligence. Although Mr. Barbaro is not known for his policy expertise, it was his byline atop the story last month announcing a new policy initiative to help young black and Latino men, half of which was funded out of  Mr. Bloomberg’s pocket.

“I don’t hate him,” said a former Bloomberg campaign staffer, implying he had every reason to.

Barbaro at the Gate: Bloomberg’s Times Gadfly Lands on Romney