After a decade staying mostly on the sidelines in the small-bore congressional races, Norquist's decided to wade right in:

This year Norquist, along with the tax-cutting Club for Growth, attacked nine-term Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) for voting in favor of energy and farm bills that included tax increases. Gilchrest lost in a primary to Andy Harris, a state senator who said he intends to keep the pledge.

Consider that a warning shot. Norquist could be just getting started. “Because the Democrats have a shot at the presidency, it’s all the more important,” he said.

Now, Norquist hasn't avoided campaigning outright in the past -- I know he went down to South Carolina in 2004 to help shore up Senator Jim DeMint's struggling campaign, for instance. But these kinds of outside players are more important this year, since official GOP campaign groups like the NRCC have fallen down on the job. Could it be a Norquist-Sheldon Adelson axis that protects downticket Republicans from total disaster in November?

--Eve Fairbanks