How the Presidential Field Responded to Obama's Cuba Announcement

The presidential candidates with the closest ties to Cuba are the most opposed to restoring relations.

Vintage American automobiles are seen on the street as their owners wait for tourists wanting a ride a day after the second round of diplomatic talks between the United States and Cuban officials took place in Washington, DC on February 28, 2015 in Havana, Cuba. The dialogue is an effort to restore full diplomatic relations and move toward opening trade.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Two Republican presidential candidates with family ties to Cuba are vowing to block the appointment of a the first U.S. ambassador to the Communist island nation in more than 50 years.

With their vows to place a parliamentary hold on any nominees for the Havana post, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida led the opposition to President Barack Obama's plans to reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba among the big field of candidates' vying to replace him.

Responses to the Cuba announcement from 2016 hopefuls broke along party lines. Not all of the declared or likely candidates spoke on the issue, but those who did were unequivocal in their reaction.

The Democrats

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted her approval:

Senator Bernie Sanders congratulated Obama on Facebook:

The Republicans

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: "As Americans prepare to celebrate the anniversary of our freedom from tyranny and commit anew to the democratic principles on which our nation was founded, it is no small irony that President Obama prepares to open an Embassy in Havana, further legitimizing the brutal Castro regime," Bush said in a statement released by his campaign.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “The president's dead wrong and what he's doing is dead wrong," Christie said in Portland, Maine, where he went to receive the endorsement of fellow Governor Paul LePage. "He's giving away the ability to have an economic relationship and a political relationship with the United States to a dictatorial regime that has done nothing, nothing, to reform itself. . . To take that kind of government off the terrorist watch list is dead wrong and to establish diplomatic relations with them without any concessions is typical of this president's inability to negotiate almost anything that's in the interests of the people of the United States."

Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “President Obama announced today he is continuing his policy of unconditional surrender to Fidel and Raul Castro by rewarding one of the most violently anti-American regimes on the planet with an embassy and an official representative of our government," Cruz, whose father was Cuban, said in a statement. "I will hold any nominee President Obama sends to the Senate to be ambassador to Cuba, and I will work to disapprove any new funds for embassy construction in Havana."

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: “I would not open up an embassy. I would close it until the Castro brothers and the regime they're in charge of actually change," he told the Des Moines Register's editorial board. "This is a dumb idea at a very dangerous time." He acknowledged there may be farming interests in Iowa, a key presidential battleground, that are interested in selling to Cuba, but added, "I'm sorry, but there is something more important than making a buck."

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “The reopening of U.S. and Cuban embassies is the latest step in President Obama’s normalization of relations with the Castro regime, and the most recent example of this president’s foreign policy that ignores reality in exchange for surface level political 'wins,'" Perry said in a statement. "There is no indication that further normalization will do anything to actually liberate the Cuban people or advance American interests."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio: "Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession," Rubio, whose parents immigrated from Cuba, said in a statement. "I intend to oppose the confirmation of an Ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed. It is time for our unilateral concessions to this odious regime to end.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: “President Obama’s decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy there is yet another example of his appeasement of dictators . . [S]hould we expect an embassy in Iran next? Instead of supporting our close ally Israel with an embassy in Jerusalem, President Obama is accommodating an enemy, the Castro regime," Walker said in a statement.

(Contributing: John McCormick in Chicago; Ben Brody and Sahil Kapur in Washington; Rob Gifford and Jennifer Epstein in New York; Terrence Dopp in Portland, Maine)

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