Casting Neumann as a creature of Washington: Neumann hasn't been a member of Congress since the 1990s (Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" was atop the charts around the time he left office), but the Thompson team has pointed to the fact that former Neumann staffers work for the Club For Growth, an organization one ally has characterized as "right-wing Washington D.C. political group."
It's something of a questionable strategy, given that Thompson has lost his appeal since working as a lobbyist, running a failed campaign for president and serving as secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush administration. It's been over 10 years since he last held office in Wisconsin.
Focus on Baldwin, not Thompson: Neumann signaled he's already looking ahead to the general election, avoiding criticism of Thompson while training his fire on likely Democratic candidate, Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Neumann's tactic is similar to Mitt Romney's laser-like focus on President Obama instead of his GOP rivals in the presidential race.
The risk is whether Republican voters will take that tack seriously if Thompson, a well-known governor with widespread support, jumps in the race and steals Neumann's thunder. He can't solely rely on outside groups going after Thompson; he'll have to draw contrasts himself.
Hit the health care theme: Neumann mentioned in a Monday media interview that "Obamacare is going to be talked about in our campaign and Tammy Baldwin supported Obamacare." There is a secondary effect of this tactic. It allows Neumann to highlight one of Thompson's perceived flaws with conservatives without actually taking him on directly. The Club For Growth has been hitting Thompson over his support for an early version of Democrats' health care measure in the Senate in 2009.
"In the Republican primary, I'm not going to say how it's going to play," Neumann said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "That's up to each candidate to lay out their position on it and let the people judge our different positions."
Focus on the nation's debt: If the jobs theme is going to be the focus for Thompson, the nation's debt and spending will be an equally important topic for Neumann. He said he would have voted against the debt compromise, which GOP Sen. Ron Johnson also opposed.
Although Neumann's policy views may align with Johnson's, he may not want to hold his breath for an endorsement from the freshman senator: Schmitz, a top adviser to Thompson, was also a key Ron Johnson campaign aide in 2010.