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 Barack 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 are a big topic at the 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.
Republican governors 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 Florida, Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona 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, and the administration argues that its growth will help cut the rolls of the uninsured.
If a state accepts, 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.
That change wouldn't occur until after the 2014 election, though, and most of the Medicaid-supporting governors are running in states Obama carried in 2012. They include Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Ohio's John Kasich, Michigan's Rick Snyder, New Mexico's Susana Martinez and Nevada's Brian Sandoval.
Also opting in are Arizona's Jan Brewer, who can't run for another term, and North Dakota's John Dalrymple, who is not up for re-election until 2016.
Other Republican governors, including those in Texas, South Carolina and North Carolina, have not agreed to the Medicaid changes, while some are still deciding.
Democrats feel that money is a key reason Republicans are warming to the plan.
"You have a chance to practice fiscal common sense, and that's more important than ideology," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
GOP governors who have accepted the Medicaid expansion insist that in addition to easing fiscal pain, they are motivated by an obligation to help the needy.
Kasich maintained that taking Medicaid money will help free other funds for mental-health services.
"I can't look at the disabled, I can't look at the poor, I can't look at the mentally ill, I can't look at the addicted and think we ought to ignore them," he said.
In Michigan, Snyder makes similar arguments.
But Snyder's action, like those of Scott, Kasich and others, also suggests a strategic move away from the right.
Last year, Snyder vetoed a Republican-backed measure to tighten the rules on voter identification at the polls.
Other governors are urging overhauls of the nation's immigration system. And some are decrying federal budget cuts due to start taking effect Friday.