Last week we found that there are some apparent rifts between elements of the Tea Party movement in Wisconsin and some of the Republican establishment. The Tea Party email that was leaked last week lamented an "old-guard Republican", "thinking in terms of Rs and Ds", and "GOP gamesmanship". The writer of the email also cited "a divide that's existed for some time now between the GOP and the grassroots." Some of Mark Neumann's messaging suggests that he is trying to exploit some of these rifts.
In several of his ads and in other elements of his messaging, he repeatedly refers to himself as a "conservative" rather than a "Republican". In fact, in a recent story he quite directly makes such a distinction. While touring a sporting goods store in downtown Portage, a man asked Neumann, "are you a Republican or a conservative?" Neumann apparently gave the answer that the man wanted to hear saying, "I'm a conservative". Neumann went on to answer that "Both Democrats and Republicans spend too much money." In a video interview that accompanies the story, Neumann goes on to suggest that he can help "restore the Republican Party to what it once was."
This approach makes strategic sense to me. After all, Scott Walker is clearly the Republican establishment favorite in the primary. Given that fact along with the rifts between the tea party and that same establishment, it makes sense that he is focusing on being a "conservative" and on trying to "restore the Republican Party". But can the Tea Party push Mark Neumann past the Republican establishment and across the finish line in the Republican primary? I don't know, but it will certainly be interesting to observe.
Another natural question that I find even more intriguing is whether Mark Neumann is truly committed to this approach? Will he take it all the way to its logical conclusion if he ends up losing to the establishment candidate? Given all of his "conservative v. Republican" messaging and his observation that the Republican Party needs to be "restored", is he preparing for a Plan B should he lose the primary? If he really believes that the current Republican Party needs to be "restored", is he willing to run as an independent and as the "real conservative"? I wish the editorial board in Portage would have asked him.