Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), arguably the chief GOP opponent of immigration reform in the House, said Thursday that some Republicans have been under a spell on the issue since the 2012 election.

"Last year, almost everybody in my conference would have agreed with me on this immigration issue,” King told CNN's "New Day." "And this year, it seems as though after the presidential election, a spell’s been cast over a good number of Republicans, and they seem to think the presidential election was about immigration."

Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of Hispanic voters, who represent a growing share of the electorate. Romney did worse among Hispanics than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did in 2008, prompting some Republicans to point a to political imperative for passing immigration reform.

The 2012 election was about jobs and the economy, said King. He also defended his controversial comments about a high number of illegal immigrants smuggling drugs across the border. GOP leaders have criticized King's remarks.

"The debate became about those who have the most merit rather than the typical, and so I illustrated those that have the least merit," said King.