WASHINGTON — John McCain says he has earned the trust of Hispanic voters by championing an immigration reform bill that nearly killed his presidential bid.
The Republican presidential candidate also says, in remarks prepared for delivery Monday in San Diego, that Democrat Barack Obama failed to take a similar stand on the politically explosive issue of illegal immigration.
McCain will speak to the annual convention of the National Council of La Raza. Obama appeared before the group on Sunday, another indication of the fierce jockeying for a critical pool of voters, a quarter of them undecided in a recent poll.
McCain, a senator from Arizona, saw his White House bid nearly collapse from conservatives' anger over his effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which opponents branded "amnesty" for millions of illegal immigrants.
"I took my lumps for it without complaint. My campaign was written off as a lost cause. I did so not just because I believed it was the right thing to do for Hispanic Americans. It was the right thing to do for all Americans," McCain said in the prepared remarks.
"I do ask for your trust that when I say, I remain committed to fair, practical and comprehensive immigration reform, I mean it. I think I have earned that trust," McCain said.
Since the defeat of the immigration reform bill, McCain has tried to make peace with critics in his party by stressing the need for border security before creating a path to citizenship.
While he worked with Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy on immigration reform, McCain said, "Senator Obama declined to cast some of those tough votes. He voted for and even sponsored amendments that were intended to kill the legislation."
Hispanics could play a critical role in the voting in such battleground states as Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.
A recent AP-Yahoo News poll showed Obama leading McCain among Hispanics, 47 percent to 22 percent, with 26 percent undecided.
On Sunday, Obama told La Raza he would push a tax credit for small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees, a program he hopes has special appeal to Hispanics and other minority groups.
"Make no mistake about it: The Latino community holds this election in your hands," Obama told the group.