The divide within the party is sharp. McConnell and other influential senators believe the party should avoid putting out a detailed platform and focus squarely on Obama’s record, while a range of junior senators — and some veterans like Sen. John McCain — think the conference should lay out a Contract with America-type agenda. Others, such as Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, want to more aggressively push House Republican bills in the Senate in order to speak with one voice coming out of Congress.

But the strategies all carry great risk. If the GOP rolls out an agenda, it will be picked apart and take the focus off Obama. If the party doesn’t bother, it risks giving the president more opportunities to slap the “do-nothing” label on Congress…

Thune, who just became his conference’s chief message man, said his party should push three main issues: reforming the tax code, stopping “job-killing” regulations and increasing domestic energy production. And he laid out what to attack: the economic stimulus, the health care law, the failed Solyndra project and the cash-for-clunkers auto program — on top of an economy the GOP will argue has become “worse” under the president.

All of those suggestions already coincide with Republican rhetoric, but the details are the sticky part.