McCain: 'Circus' around immigration debate hurting GOP
© Francis Rivera

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Romney: Trump 'has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character' MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) took a veiled shot at Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE on Friday, saying that the "circus" surrounding Republican infighting on illegal immigration is hurting the party. 

“The circus currently surrounding the debate over illegal immigration sows division within our country and damages the Republican Party," McCain, the party's presidential nominee in 2008, said in a statement. 
 
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He added that "if the Republican nominee for president does not support comprehensive immigration reform and border security policy, we have no chance of defeating Hillary Clinton and winning the White House in 2016." 
 
Though McCain didn't mention Trump by name, his comments come after remarks on immigration by the businessman and long-shot Republican presidential contender sparked a media firestorm.
 
Top Republicans — including Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Crowley, Daschle named to international cannabis board Clash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash MORE (R-Ohio) and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — have rushed to do damage control, with Preibus reportedly asking Trump in a phone call to tone down his talk.
 
Trump has said that Mexico was sending "rapists" and other criminals to the United States. 
  
McCain is also up for reelection next year and could face a primary challenge from a more conservative opponent. Kelli Ward, who has toyed with running against McCain, sent an email to supports on Friday saying that she would announce her plans on Tuesday. 
 
In his statement, the Arizona Republican touted his work to try to pass immigration reform and bolster border security. 
 
He added that while Arizona deals with the fallout from immigrants illegally crossing into the United States, "we also know that our state has been so greatly enriched by Arizona's Hispanic community."  
 
Individuals who identify as Hispanic or Latino made up more than 30 percent of Arizona's population in 2013, according to the Census Bureau. 
 
McCain's comments on Friday aren't the first time he's pushed his party's presidential contenders to back comprehensive immigration reform. 
 
Earlier this year, he told reporters that one of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney's "biggest mistakes" was his comment about illegal immigrants self-deporting.
 
"We need to address the issue," McCain added. "We need to do it in a constructive fashion, or we do not win the 2016 election."