Arizona Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he believes Republicans can defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, but only if they pass immigration reform.
"She's the odds-on favorite right now," McCain said of Clinton at the "Politics on Tap" event hosted by CNN and National Journal. "But I think we have a long list of people who could defeat Hillary Clinton." McCain suggested New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich by name as potential Clinton vanquishers. "We've got some very successful governors that have done very well in their states that I think once exposed to the American people could be very competitive."
McCain noted that Clinton's poll numbers have dropped over the recent controversy over her wealth and her speaking fees, but said that could all be for naught if the Republican Party doesn't enact immigration reform.
"I expect it to be very competitive," McCain said, "except if we don't enact some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, I do not see a way for us to really win a general election."
Pressed on the lingering House Republican opposition to taking up immigration reform, McCain said he will continue to "hope and pray and work" to make them reconsider.
Passing immigration reform was the sole policy recommendation of the 2013 Republican Party autopsy into its 2012 rout, but the House Republican conference has repeatedly blocked any action on the measure since the Senate passed a reform bill last year.
"Hopefully my colleagues in the House will realize the same demographics that I am referring to and that they will at least in some way bring up immigration reform, whether it's piecemeal, whether it's one-at-a-time," he said. "I think as the 2016 campaign gets closer that my colleagues will recognize ... that we are marginalizing the Republican Party," McCain added.