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GOP: Going soft -- in just tone or substance, too?

Karen Tumulty: “After years in which the Republicans’ answer to almost every question was to reduce spending and lower taxes, some of the party’s most influential voices are beginning to suggest that it is time to take a broader — and softer — focus. The latest to join that movement is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), who in a speech on Tuesday called for Republicans to ‘focus our attention really on what lies beyond the fiscal debates’ and to create ‘conditions for health, happiness and prosperity.’”

But: “Changing the subject from fiscal issues could prove difficult, however, given that congressional Republicans are squaring off with President Obama over the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that are set to take effect on March 1. And later next month, the stopgap resolution that is keeping the government funded will expire, igniting yet another battle over spending.”

“After their electoral drubbing last November — their second straight in a presidential contest — Republicans have faced a choice. Do they change their policies or their tone?” NBC’s Michael O’Brien reports. “For now, many top Republicans in Washington seem to have opted for the latter, deciding that a more articulate re-statement of the party's long-held principles will suffice in their effort to attract new voters to the GOP. ‘I wouldn't say shift in policy,’ pollster Jim McLaughlin said of his advice for fellow Republicans. ‘Republicans have to make adjustments there, but they have to stick to their principles.’”

Look at this split between Democrats and Republicans in National Journal’s latest “insiders’” survey. Democrats (57%) believe the top problem for the GOP is its policies, while the top problem Republicans pointed to was message (33%).

The internecine conservative fight continues. Terence Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the conservative web site CNSNews.com, writes this: “Karl Rove Is Not a Conservative.” He writes, “If you give him credit for believing in the policies and nominations he helped Bush make and defend, then Rove was wrong on the constitutionally appropriate role of the federal government, wrong on foreign policy, wrong on immigration and wrong on a crucial nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“Republican leaders are launching an effort led by Hispanic governors in New Mexico and Nevada in an attempt to make up ground with Latino voters who have largely turned away from the GOP,” AP writes. “The nation’s only Hispanic governors plan to recruit minority candidates and groom them for state-level offices with an eye toward creating a pool of candidates for higher positions in the future, the Republican State Leadership Committee said in a statement.”

The Christian right is for immigration reform? “Christian conservatives, who stayed on the sidelines in 2006 or opposed reform outright, have sprung into action for the cause,” Politico writes. Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition said, “I think it is night and day, particularly among social conservatives.”

More: “Social conservatives are directly targeting GOP offices and trying to show that they can give cover to lawmakers in the South, West and Midwest, who are worried about facing retaliation at the ballot box in 2014. … There has also been a shift in thinking among southern conservative religious leaders, who see Hispanics as a growing part of their congregations.”

Gallup: “At least two-thirds of Americans favor each of five specific measures designed to address immigration issues -- ranging from 68% who would vote for increased government spending on security measures and enforcement at U.S. borders, to 85% who would vote for a requirement that employers verify the immigration status of all new hires. More than seven in 10 would vote for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now living in this country.”

ABC/Washington Post: “Public approval of Barack Obama’s handling of immigration has jumped to a career high in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, buttressed by majority support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and, much more broadly, endorsement of stricter border control. While the president lacks majority approval on the issue overall, slightly more Americans now approve than disapprove of his approach, by 49 vs. 43 percent. Obama was underwater on the issue – just 38 percent approved, while 52 percent disapproved – as recently as last July.” Democrats approve of Obama’s handling of the issues by a 79%-16% margin, but just 14% of Republicans approve. Independents are split 46%-46%.

On specific issues, 55% in the ABC/Washington Post poll favor a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. There is a big split by party, however.