Cathy Tyler was explaining how much more she liked the Republican atmosphere in South Carolina than in her home state of Michigan when she realized she was in the wrong room.

She went to the Charleston County Republican Womens Club Inc. meeting, but she meant to attend the Charleston County Republican Women's Club meeting.

So she walked across the hall on the second floor of the Charleston Country Club.

If anyone thought it was bizarre that the county's GOP women have splintered into two groups who share the same name and who met last week at the same time and place, they kept their thoughts to themselves.

"There are some things you don't want to get in the middle of," said Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett, who said she's not taking sides in the split. "It's a free country. People will do what they want to do."

The Charleston County Republican Women's Club noshed on chicken salad and heard from their 1st Congressional District hopefuls, while the Charleston County Republican Womens Club Inc. dined on roast pork and heard from several statewide GOP candidates.

Republican National Committeewoman Cindy Costa met with the latter. She called the split "unfortunate," but quickly looked on the bright side.

"Hopefully, it will grow the Republican party," she said. "Sometimes when things divide, they multiply."

Betty Poe, president of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women, attended the other meeting. Poe said that group still is affiliated with the federation, which has 23 clubs across the state.

"It's unfortunate that it (the split) happened, but I think both groups will move forward," she said. "Both groups are great people."

The split was not driven by ideology: It's not as if one supports the pure conservatism of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint while the other likes the pragmatic approach of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

"It was a personality thing," Bennett said.

Mary Ann Taylor, interim president of the federated group, said the group splintered partly because its former president, Kay Long, had served in that office longer than the federation allows. "What it cooks down to is I believe in bylaws," Taylor said.

Long, who is president of the Charleston County Republican Womens Club Inc., said the group requested a waver from that bylaw three years ago but never heard back from the state. "We just presumed that everything was OK," Long said, adding some women in the new club also like the idea of not having to share half their dues with the state and national federation.

Any candidates miffed about having to appear before both groups to reach some of their party's most faithful female members in Charleston County haven't complained.

"They told me to work both rooms," said one office seeker who asked not to be named for fear of alienating women in either group.

The clubs agree on more than the superiority of Republican values. They also agree they should no longer meet on the same day at the same time at the same country club.

"It was kind of a nightmare parking," Long said.