The Cable

Rubio’s 2016 Presidential Bid to Bring Obama’s Cuba Policy Center Stage

Florida Senator Marco Rubio's (R) 2016 presidential bid would force Obama's policy on Cuba to the center stage of American politics.

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The 2016 presidential race is getting crowded. Quickly.

A day after former New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially threw her hat into the Democratic field, the Associated Press reported Monday morning that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) is entering the race for the 2016 GOP nomination. He will join Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as official Republican contenders. So far, Clinton is the only Democrat to formally announce a bid, although former Secretary of the Navy and Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee are also considering running.

The addition of Rubio to the Republican race would bring President Barack Obama’s ongoing thaw in relations to the center stage of American presidential politics. The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio is opposed to the restoration of diplomatic ties between Washington and Havana. It’s perhaps no accident that his announcement comes just days after Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shook hands at the opening of the Summit of the Americas last Friday, an important symbolic gesture as the two sides try to normalize formal relations.

But Cuba isn’t the only issue where Rubio and Obama disagree. Last week, Rubio said that any nuclear accord between Iran and the United States and its P5+1 allies had to formally recognize Israel’s right to exist. He’s trying to attach an amendment demanding this concession to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker’s (R-Tenn.) legislation to give Congress approval authority over the final nuclear accord. That committee is expected to vote on the legislation Tuesday.

One issue where Obama and Rubio agree is the fight against the Islamic State. Like the White House, the Florida lawmaker wants to grant unlimited authority to the Pentagon to take on the group. Many within Obama’s own party oppose such a broad mandate.

Rubio’s campaign is also likely to focus on foreign policy issues outside of the current mainstream. He has argued that the United States neglects Latin America and needs to focus on building economic ties and encouraging democratic reforms there as opposed to concentrating on Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Elsewhere, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who is also considering a run at the GOP ticket, took aim at Clinton, widely considered the top Democrat in the 2016 race.

“We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies,” Bush said in the video released Sunday by his Right to Rise PAC. “Better than their failed, big government policies that grow our debt and stand in the way of real economic growth and prosperity.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who is also considering a run, also used Clinton’s official announcement to blast the former first lady.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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