Politico eminence Maggie Haberman just announced her departure for the New York Times:

According to a New York Times memo cited in Capital New York, Haberman will “anchor” the “First Draft” morning newsletter of the New York Times as well as serve as a presidential campaign correspondent for the newspaper. She starts Feb. 15.

As reported previously in this space, Politico has been shedding staffers at a stunning rate — about 25 percent of its people left over the course of 2014. The departures have continued into the new year, too, with key Politico events editor Lois Romano announcing her departure earlier this week.

Haberman’s announcement is a blow of astounding proportions. A former reporter for the New York Post, where she covered the 2008 presidential election and various other races, Haberman has had massive impact at Politico, especially as Hillary Clinton approaches a likely announcement that she’ll run for president in 2016. To date, the single most significant piece of reporting on Clinton’s 2016 preparations came about a year ago off the desk of Haberman; titled “Hillary Clinton’s shadow campaign,” it pieced together all the little preparations that Team Clinton had taken toward a possible presidential bid.

More recently, the blanket coverage has continued producing dividends for Politico, on Clinton’s personnel moves, travel spending and the like. Haberman’s exit completes the loss of a memorable one-two punch that it deployed in the 2012 presidential election: The “Burns & Haberman” blog, which covered every twitch of the contest between Mitt Romney and President Obama. Alexander Burns, Haberman’s partner in the effort, left Politico late last year, as reported by the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone.

In recent weeks, Editor Susan Glasser has made several impressive hires, pulling away the likes of Michael Crowley and Michael Grunwald from Time magazine, not to mention the announcement this morning that former Slate and Reuters media critic Jack Shafer is coming aboard.

Those folks, along with other recent hires, bring considerable conceptual and intellectual firepower to Politico, for sure. They’ll be hard-pressed, however, to fill the hole that Haberman is leaving. Not only is she wired on the Clinton front, but she has deep contacts with operatives across the political landscape and will help drive coverage on both sides of the partisan divide.

As painful as the departure is for Politico, that’s how big a boon it is for the New York Times, which speeds ahead of the crowd in the race to cover the 2016 race.

Glasser and Executive Editor Peter Canellos acknowledge the misfortune in a memo to staff:

Dear Politicos — Our great colleague and friend Maggie Haberman has just told us she’s accepted a job at the New York Times, her hometown paper and the alma mater of her dad. Maggie has been a star reporter here for years, a leader of our campaign coverage — and world leader on the Hillary beat — and a relentless force for scoops and news at all hours of the day and night. On a day and at a time when we are welcoming so many terrific new colleagues to Politico, we’re sorry to see her go and wish her all the best.

Susan & Peter

More to come on this . . .