For 30 minutes on Thursday, Mitt Romney, a likely Republican candidate for president in 2012, offered a systematic indictment of what he described as the failed presidency of Barack Obama. A little earlier, a crowd of conservatives whooped in delight as a speaker made coy allusions to Mr. Obama's youthful experimentation with cocaine.
Republican leaders took the stage at a conservative conference here to pay tribute to the Tea Party movement and soberly pledge to defeat Republicans who did not adhere to conservative views. Speaker after speaker drew hoots as they mocked Mr. Obama for his use of a teleprompter, seemingly oblivious to the teleprompter that rose from the floor before them.
The setting was the Conservative Political Action Conference, and it produced a sometimes incongruous meshing of mainstream Republicans - presidential candidates, leaders of Congress, political thinkers - with the often rowdy crowd of activists who have typically lent a slight air of the carnival to this long-time Washington political gathering.
Zernike rehashed some bits from her controversial "Caucus" blog post  Thursday on speaker Jason Mattera's jokes about Obama doing cocaine, but her accusation that Mattera put on a "Chris Rock" voice and indulged in racial stereotyping didn't make it into print - either for space reasons, or figuring out she didn't have the facts on her side.
The remark about Mr. Obama's experimentation with cocaine came from Jason Mattera, author of a forthcoming book called "Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation," as he likened the CPAC gathering to "our Woodstock."
"Except that unlike the last gathering, our women are beautiful, we speak in complete sentences and our notion of freedom doesn't consist of snorting cocaine," Mr. Mattera said, "which is certainly one thing that separates us from Barack Obama."
The Times concluded by imagining a wedge between CPAC-goers and "mainstream Republicans":
And some of those at the conference advocate positions that might be problematic for more mainstream Republicans.
At one point, Mr. DeMint attacked the federal income tax, noting that the Constitution did not originally allow it. (The 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, did.)
"The Constitution, when it was signed, it did not even allow a federal income tax," he said.
"Right!" shouted one man in the audience.
"And that sounds like a good way to limit the size of the federal government," Mr. DeMint said.