WASHINGTON - Faced with tough re-election campaigns and constituents clamoring for government services, Republican governors in some big swing states are turning pragmatic, pulling away from the conservative line that helped them win in 2010.
The clearest sign of the shift comes from seven Republican governors who have agreed to expand the Medicaid program, a key feature of President Obama's health-care law that some bitterly opposed when winning their seats.
The governors are learning, as their predecessors did, that voters tend to judge them on how well they manage government, not how eloquently they articulate political theory.
They insist they are not being politically expedient. "I don't see an ideological shift. We're going through a detailed analysis of whether this is right, and the health-care law is the law of the land," said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who is undecided about Medicaid expansion.
The shifts - which also feature softening stands on immigration, voting rights and other issues - were a big topic at the weekend's National Governors Association winter session. The governors will meet with Obama at the White House today. Administration officials were at Sunday's session talking about health-care options privately with governors.
Republicans today could offer the president two different messages, a split that reflects the turmoil the party is enduring after losing the White House and congressional seats.
Some are likely to show unwavering fealty to the conservative cause. Others are probably going to talk more pragmatically.
The governors of Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada and North Dakota have agreed to expand the Medicaid program in their states. Some other Republicans are studying it. Medicaid is the joint federal-state health-care program for lower-income people.
If a state accepts expansion, the federal government will pay the full costs of newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries for three years starting in 2014. After that, the percentage will gradually drop to 90 percent, which some fear would dump huge costs on states.