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Republican governors defend edge prior to midterm races

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Republicans swept into governorships on a wave of discontent fueled by the hardcore conservative tea party movement four years ago, taking over statehouses long governed by Democrats with promises of implementing conservative economic and social policy makeovers.

In states across the Midwest and Southwest, Republican governors followed through on those promises, winning far-reaching changes in labor, budget and social policy. Now, those same governors are preparing to face the voters next year, promoting their accomplishments while keeping arm's length from their unpopular colleagues in Congress.

Democrats are counting on a backlash from voters upset over the policy shift to the political right. But they have struggled to field top-tier contenders in several key states, including some that President Barack Obama carried last year when he won re-election. Democrats attribute their candidate recruitment woes to the continuing popularity of Republican governors, despite disapproval of congressional Republicans after the federal government shutdown in October.

“While the federal party is suffering, it's much harder to pin that on candidates for statewide office,” acknowledged Nathan Daschle, former director of the Democratic Governors Association.

Republicans control 29 of the 50 governorships in the U.S., including 20 of the 36 that will be on the ballot in 2014. Republican-controlled states include Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin, which together accounted for roughly half of Obama's 126-electoral vote margin over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

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