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Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Rand Paul urges Fauci to provide 'more optimism' on coronavirus 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 RubioJennifer Aniston urges fans to 'wear a damn mask:' 'It really shouldn't be a debate' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE (R-Fla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech 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.