Two of the Republican Party’s top White House hopefuls clashed sharply Friday over President Obama’s new Cuba policy, evidence of a growing GOP rift over foreign affairs that could shape the party’s 2016 presidential primaries.
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who backs Obama’s move to normalize relations with communist Cuba, accused Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) of being an “isolationist” with his hard-line opposition to opening up trade and diplomatic engagement with the island nation. Paul suggested that Rubio “wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.”
Paul’s comments came after Rubio — the son of Cuban exiles who has stepped forward as a leading voice of resistance to Obama’s policy — told Fox News that Paul had “no idea what he’s talking about” when it comes to Cuba.
The feud is the loudest public dispute so far between potential GOP 2016 candidates and lays bare the divergent world views of traditional hawks — including Rubio and past Republican presidents and nominees — and the emerging, younger libertarian wing represented by Paul.
For decades, Rubio’s position has been the GOP’s natural default. But Paul is testing that convention.