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National Politics|By Amy Walter, February 27, 2013

Watching the current state of dysfunction in D.C. these days, it's easy to romanticize the seemingly functional role played by the nation’s Governors.

Washington is about process. State Capitols are about progress.

While members of Congress focus on what they haven't done (raised taxes, cut Medicare etc), Governors emphasize what they have done (built roads, opened schools, etc.).

But, peel beyond the surface and you’ll see that state capitols are set up to produce the same sort of polarization and petty politics that have tied up the US Capitol.

In almost three-quarters of the states in the country, the legislature and the Governor are controlled by one party. In twenty-three of those states, the legislature and the Governor are Republicans. Democrats control all three branches in just 13 states.

This one-party control at the state level is a recent development. Ten years ago, more than half the states (29) had a governor and at least one legislative body represented by different parties. By 2009, the number of split control states dropped to 19. Today, there are just 13 states where the legislature and the Governor are from different parties. (This analysis excludes Nebraska which has a unicameral legislature)

State Party Control

Data: National Conference of State Legislatures

And, with redistricting keeping legislators safe, they too can afford to push partisan agendas without fear of retribution from the voters. After the 2010 election, more than half (55 percent) of all state House members in the country were Democrats. After the 2012 election, the first since redistricting, the number of Democrats nationally has dropped eight points to 47 percent.

And, with redistricting keeping legislators safe, they too can afford to push partisan agendas without fear of retribution from the voters. After the 2010 election, more than half (55 percent) of all state House members in the country were Democrats. After the 2012 election, the first since redistricting, the number of Democrats nationally has dropped eight points to 47 percent.

State Representatives

Data: National Conference of State Legislatures

State Senators

Data: National Conference of State Legislatures

This puts Governors who are trying to portray a more balanced profile in a tough bind. Just ask GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell how that transvaginal probe thing worked out for him.

Being pragmatic and reasonable isn't worth much here in DC. So, will the very things that help Governors succeed at home, hurt them in a primary for federal office?

Governor McDonnell is winning praise from pundits and business leaders in the state for his bipartisan transportation bill. Yet, predictably, he's getting attacked by many on the right for supporting a hike in the sales tax to pay for the legislation.

In an interview with Richmond, Virginia affiliate NBC 12, Grover Norquist lashed out at McDonnell's transportation deal and hinted that it would damage his political prospects for the future. "Virginia's raising taxes? You don't run for president as a Republican with 30 Republican governors most of whom [are cutting taxes]... I don't think you can compete with that."

Tucker Martin, McDonnell's spokesperson, brushes off the criticism, arguing that the fact that Democrats in the legislature agreed to spending general funds on transportation was a "major conservative win."

Chris Christie, the GOP's most popular Governor, and a likely 2016 candidate, was not invited to speak at next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference. His transgression: his push for federal funds to help New Jersey pay for Superstorm Sandy clean-up.

Or ask Texas Gov. Rick Perry, no one's version of a RINO, how well his support of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants--a popular position in his border state--went over in Iowa?

It wasn't that long ago that a Texas Governor named George W. Bush won a GOP primary while boasting of his "compassionate conservatism" and his ability to work with Democrats.

I asked Matthew Dowd, Bush's former polling director, if that 2000 model could be replicated in this heavily polarized era.

"Definitely," he said. "In the end Republicans will want to win a general election."

Perhaps so. For now, however, Michael Bloomberg's political organization brags of defeating a pro-gun moderate Democrat in Chicago while the Club for Growth launches a "PrimaryMyCongressman.com" to "raise awareness of Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) who are currently serving in safe Republican seats." Sure seems hard to see either side eager to embrace folks who put compromise above conflict.

Web Editor Loren Fulton contributed to this report.