WASHINGTON— Arizona Sen. John McCain said Thursday he didn't think passing immigration reform would help Republicans at the polls anytime soon.
But the 'Gang of Eight' member said the GOP had a lot more to lose if immigration reform doesn't get done.
"I believe if we pass this legislation, it won't gain us a single Hispanic vote, but what it will do is put us a playing field where we can compete. Right now we can't compete," he said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "The numbers in the last couple of elections authenticate that statement.
McCain is one of four Republicans who helped craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. National Republicans are fearful that if immigration reform doesn't happen, the GOP will continue to lose Hispanics — and elections —for years to come.
However, for GOP House members and Senators, the electoral threat is often from a primary challenge on the right, which may dissuade them from supporting immigration reform.
"I would just try to show my friends, particularly in states like mine and the state of Texas where the demographics should be convincing," he said. "Six or eight years from now we will have if not a majority, a near to majority Hispanic population in my state. So it is a demographic certainty, that if we condemn ourselves to 15 or 20 percent of the Hispanic vote, we will not win elections."
But McCain said that immigration reform passes, it at least gives the GOP some time to try and convince new voters.
"It will us on a playing field where we can make an argument…for smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation pro-life, pro-defense and that's an argument I think we can make to gain Hispanic support," he said.