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Republican governors worried by lengthy primary

Democratic governors are bullish on President Obama's re-election prospects, citing the improving economy and a Republican nominating contest that has exposed deep divisions in the party's base.

Republican governors insist Obama is vulnerable, but they say they are concerned the prolonged GOP primary race has alienated independent voters and may have badly damaged the eventual nominee.

Democratic enthusiasm and Republican apprehension were both on display at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

In interviews, many Democratic governors seemed almost giddy about Obama's chances of winning a second term.

They cited improving employment figures, which have helped raise state revenues after years of painful budget cuts.

"These Republicans that are running for president, they're so depressing. Cheer up!" Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said after Democratic governors left a White House meeting with Obama. "We've got some good news: a great president creating jobs, and governors who are seeing revenues rebound."

Even Democratic governors of some typically toss-up states said they like Obama's chances. "In a purple state, people want to see results, and they also want to see a level of collaboration and teamwork. I think he is going to win Colorado," Gov. John Hickenlooper said.

Virtually no Republican governors were willing to predict their party's nominee would prevail in November.

Many lamented the drawn-out nature of the nominating process, in which the early front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has been weakened by the intense scrutiny of his wealth, business practices and shifts on issues as well as the unwillingness of conservative voters to rally behind his candidacy. Many conservatives coalesced recently around former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney's latest strongest rival as the contest moves to primaries in Arizona and Michigan on Tuesday and 10 contests on March 6.

"I don't know anybody who thinks if you started out to design a good process to pick a president, you'd choose exactly what we have now," said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget director who explored a presidential candidacy but ultimately decided against a run.

Daniels said he would not consider jumping into the race even if Romney were to lose Michigan. Some Republican leaders have said privately that if Romney does not prevail in Michigan -- a state where he was born and grew up and where his father served as governor -- the defeat could serve as an opening for a heavyweight like Daniels to run.

Daniels, who has not endorsed a candidate, said he didn't believe a potential Romney loss in Michigan indicated problems with his candidacy.

"The problem I would worry about, and have all along, is that our side might not offer a bold enough and specific enough and constructive enough and, I would say, inclusive enough alternative to America," he said.