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RNC leader Priebus says Cantor loss, immigration debate hasn't divided GOP

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FILE: March 17, 2013: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on CBS's "Face the Nation," in Washington, D.C. (AP)

The leader of the Republican National Committee on Sunday disagreed with assertions that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss to a Tea Party-backed candidate shows his party’s perilously divided, with immigration reform being a huge wedge issue.

“I don't think it's divided at all,” committee Chairman Reince Priebus told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Priebus defended what has become frequent criticism that the party is too divided between moderates and far-right members and that the GOP’s reluctance to help pass immigration legislation will hurt them in the polls with Hispanic voters.

“We're going to add seats to the House,” he said. “So our majority is going to grow. And I think most people out there believe that we've got a better than 50-50 chance of winning the U.S. Senate.”

Priebus said more than one person wants to be a senator or congressman in strong Republican districts. And he agreed with the argument after Cantor’s loss Tuesday to economics professor David Brat that being a majority leader means having to focus on national issues at the expense of spending time in a home district.

He predicted that a Republican would still win Cantor’s seat and the one held by Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who is also facing a Tea Party-backed challenger.

“You're taking two races out of the entire country and extrapolating that into some big division,” Priebus said.

He acknowledged that different voices within the party have different views on immigration reform, just like Democrats, but said essentially all Americans agree that the country’s broken immigration system must be fixed.

“Democrats don't agree on everything, either,” Priebus said.

He argued that GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Kentucky, and Ted Cruz, Texas, have publicly called for immigration reform. And Paul, in fact, this spring before a major Hispanic group called for serious immigration reform.

“Those are his words, not mine,” Priebus said. “I think there's consensus that the immigration system is broken. But how to fix it is another issue.”

He argued the GOP has a field of good potential 2016 presidential candidates including Paul, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Still, he acknowledged that regardless of whether the GOP gets the immigration policy correct it still has to get Hispanic, African-American and Asian communities excited about the party and talking about a nominee.