Jeb Bush tries to seize the spotlight from Rubio on Cuba

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has, through surrogates, been pushing back on the notion that the decision by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to form a presidential exploratory committee prohibited him from also making a run. Many said that Rubio and Bush would be drawing from the same pool of support and, given Bush’s early decision to embrace a White House bid and his family’s ties to the GOP donor class, a potential Rubio bid was likely dead before it even began.

President Barack Obama’s decision to unilaterally ease trade and travel restrictions with Cuba has upended that conventional wisdom. Rubio has appeared on every cable network to speak out in the harshest of terms against Obama’s move. He delivered a formal opposition response to the president in English and Spanish, much of which was aired live. Rubio will continue to represent Republican opposition to the easing of restrictions on Cuba throughout the week and probably on a number of Sunday morning news programs.

The controversy surrounding the easing of relations with Cuba has apparently reminded the pundit class that the freshman Florida Senator may be the most authoritative potential Republican 2016 contender on a variety of foreign policy matters.

The president’s surprise move that rocketed Rubio back into the national spotlight may have caught Bush on his heels. Hours after the president’s decision was announced, Bush released a statement on his Facebook page condemning Obama’s decision to ease trade and travel restrictions.

“The Obama Administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba is the latest foreign policy misstep by this President, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority,” the statement began. “It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba.”

The benefactors of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.

I am delighted that Alan Gross has been released. It will be a joy and relief for his wife and family to have him home this Hanukkah season. He is innocent and should never have been in prison in the first place, nor spent five long years there as he suffered in poor health. It is, however, unfortunate that the United States chose to release three convicted spies.

Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators. We should instead be fostering efforts that will truly lead to the fair, legitimate democracy that will ultimately prevail in Cuba.

It’s likely that Bush would have been lambasted in the press if he kept completely silent on this issue, but his statement is as much a response to Obama as it is to Rubio. It is foolish of Bush to attempt to outmatch Rubio on the issue of American relations with the Cuban regime, and it seems he is aware of that. This tepid statement is an indication that the former Florida governor is largely ceding the issue to Rubio.