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Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGOP senators call for probe of federal grants on climate change Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production MORE (R-Ky.) is breaking with other Republican presidential hopefuls and backing President Obama's decision to launch talks normalizing relations with Cuba.

Paul criticized the trade and travel embargo on Cuba as ineffective, separating himself from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioNew fears over Chinese espionage grip Washington Rubio heckled by protestors outside immigration detention facility Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development MORE (R-Fla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIt is time for Trump to start selling space exploration Senate left in limbo by Trump tweets, House delays The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington MORE (R-Texas), who have criticized Obama and backed the embargo. 

All four men are considered likely contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. 

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"In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea," Paul told Tom Roten of WVHU radio in West Virginia, The Associated Press reports.

"The 50-year embargo just hasn't worked," Paul said. "If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working, and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship."

Paul made the comments to the Huntington, W.Va., station, just over the border from Kentucky, on Thursday morning, after declining to comment on the issue on Wednesday. 

The Kentucky Republican has a history of libertarianism, and his comments are not a surprise. Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the senator's father, introduced a bill to lift the embargo.

Still, the remarks are striking, since it is rare for a mainstream Republican contender for the White House to break firmly from support for the Cuban embargo.

Obama's surprise announcement on Wednesday includes moves to open an embassy in Cuba, and ease travel and economic restrictions. Obama said he would work with Congress to consider fully lifting the embargo.