Zernike, joining colleague Adam Nagourney  in appearing to search out the most convincing case for conservative pessimism for the 2010 elections and leaping on it, spent 10 full paragraphs suggesting a fringe candidate would frustrate the Tea Party movement's plans to defeat Reid.
The television cameras went 60 miles south, to where Sarah Palin kicked off the "Showdown in Searchlight."
But come the midterm elections, what may be more significant is what is happening here, in a dark condominium where the Home Depot tags are still on the lawn chairs that double as indoor seating for guests.
The blinds drawn against the desert sun, this is the new burrow of Eric Odom, a chief organizer of the first nationwide Tea Parties last year. Mr. Odom moved here a few weeks ago with his fiancée and a blogger sidekick to mobilize the state's Tea Party groups for the midterms. By training activists in get-out-the-vote tactics like the "voter bombs" that helped Scott Brown become the new Republican senator from Massachusetts, they are hoping to unseat Nevada's senior senator and the Democratic leader, Harry Reid.
Still, while polls suggest that Mr. Reid may lose his bid for re-election, it could be in spite of the Tea Party, not because of it.
But before the Tea Party can claim a victory here, people have to figure out who the Tea Party candidate is. And "Anyone Butt Reid," as other signs declare, is turning out to be not such an effective strategy.
Soon came 10 paragraphs on the controversy over Tea Party candidate Scott Ashjian, which began:
Then there is the problem of Scott Ashjian, an asphalt contractor who filed last month to run as the candidate of the Tea Party of Nevada. The Tea Party, at least elsewhere, is not a traditional political party, but a loose affiliation of groups. Conspiracy theory holds that Mr. Ashjian is a "progressive plant" thrown in by liberals to take votes away from the eventual Republican candidate and to help re-elect Mr. Reid.
Zernike eventually circled back around to one of the touchstones of the media's coverage of the movement - "anger."
People who turned out for the Tea Party Express rally in Searchlight were angry at Mr. Reid, but they did not have any preferred candidate to take him on. And they were just as angry at many Republicans, including the state's other senator, John Ensign.