CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I'm not sure that the vote had even been finalized in the election of new state Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart before I started getting voicemails from moderate Republicans.
They're concerned that, with his ties to the Tea Party movement and as head of the very appropriately named West Virginia Conservative Foundation, Stuart will move the party too far to the right -- instead of appealing to moderate Democrats in the state who might feel that their party leaders nationally have jumped too far to the left.
"He's a smart guy," one caller said. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid his political opinions will outweigh his intellect."
Asked about those concerns, Stuart told me, "I happen to be a conservative, but I'm also a big-tent Republican."
In a state where about 70 percent of voters identify themselves as conservative, regardless of party ties, Stuart said one of his roles as chairman will be to reach out to independent and conservative Democratic voters to convince them to vote Republican in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
In particular, Stuart said, he's heard from a lot of Democrats who are still hopping mad that Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., hosted a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who's not exactly a friend of coal, at his Charleston home last month.
Stuart believes that if the GOP can play on that anger and disenchantment, Republicans can pick up some seats -- in state and congressional races -- this fall and in 2012.
I also asked Stuart if he thought the National Republican Senatorial Committee was making a strategic error by trying to portray Gov. Joe Manchin as a Barack Obama-Harry Reid-Nancy Pelosi liberal in campaign ads and releases.
(Republican special election challengers John Raese and Mac Warner have tried the same strategy. Of course, from Raese's perspective, almost everybody is liberal.)
Stuart said he believes that, as a Democratic senator, Manchin would be under a great deal of pressure to vote with the party, even on issues he has opposed as governor.
"Here's what I think they're trying to say," Stuart said of the NRSC ads. "There's a big difference between a Governor Manchin and a [U.S] Senator Manchin."
(So far, the NRSC is sitting out the special primary, which may indicate the national GOP doesn't have much enthusiasm for the 10-candidate field for Sen. Robert C. Byrd's unexpired term.)
Speaking of Republicans, there's been polling going on in the past week regarding the 2011 race for mayor of Charleston, an office currently occupied by Danny Jones.
The poll starts out by asking about one's approval/disapproval of Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Gov. Manchin, County Commissioners Kent Carper and Dave Hardy and Mayor Jones.
It then asks whom the interviewee would be likely to support in hypothetical mayor's races, pitting Jones against Carper, or Jones against Hardy.