The ultimate key to winning the 2016 presidential election is the state of Florida's 29 electoral votes. A Republican Florida and a combination among six other states carried by Obama in 2012 cement a GOP win.

The easiest path is Florida and Ohio (18 votes) and combination of Colorado (nine), Wisconsin (10), and Virginia (13), and/or carrying Nevada (six) and Iowa (six). In 2012, President Obama won key Florida by less than 1 percent.

Florida, then, is the "yellow brick road" to the White House.

It is in Florida that the first heavyweight Republican, former Gov. Jeb Bush, announced that he is forming an exploratory effort and PAC to take steps to run for the GOP presidential nomination.


His Facebook announcement was ballyhooed by the media in a way that shook up the political world and certainly caused political heartburn among other potential candidates. Despite buzz, many potential candidates are long shots because it will cost $1 billion to win the White House. Most of them simply cannot raise that kind of money.

A day after Bush's announcement, an unprecedented move by President Obama to make nice with Cuban Communist dictators Fidel and Raúl Castro energized the nascent Republican presidential campaign. Possible presidential candidate and Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Coast-to-coast fears about post-holiday COVID-19 spread Potential 2024 Republicans flock to Georgia amid Senate runoffs Voters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican MORE, one of two Cuban-Americans in the Senate, publically challenged Obama on his new Cuba policy. He charged that Obama caved on suggesting the 50-year-old embargo be dismantled and new diplomatic relations be instituted without any meaningful concessions from Cuba. What did the United States get in the 18-month-long secret negotiations with Cuba? Rubio's denunciation of Obama's new policy overshadowed Bush's announcement.

As for Obama's proposal to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, Rubio hit a home run with his question of what American interests were served by this move so welcomed by the Communist dictators Castro. Note: Castro prohibited Obama's announcement from being seen in Cuba. Rubio promised to block an embassy and ambassador with the new Republican Senate majority.

Rubio aggressively thrust himself into the limelight and his rumored efforts to run for president in 2016, considered dead when Bush announced, were resurrected.

Obama's Cuban adventure also cast attention to Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul says Fauci owes parents and students an apology over pandemic measures Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint MORE who is determined to take up where his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), left off, i.e., trying for the GOP presidential nomination. Paul took Rubio head on with prattle about "peace by commerce."

Word warfare immediately broke out between the two presidential-candidate-thinking first-term U.S. senators, with Bush siding with his friend Rubio. Many foreign policy GOP senators lined up with Rubio. He reminded everyone that Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristFlorida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Anna Paulina Luna wins Florida GOP primary in bid to unseat Charlie Crist The feds should not spend taxpayer dollars in states that have legalized weed MORE tried an "I heart Cuba" gubernatorial campaign in 2014 and was creamed 65 to 30 percent among Miami's 900,000-strong Cuban-American population and lost the election many thought he would win. He lost by less than 1 percent, the same percentage Obama eked out his 2012 Florida win.

Paul supported Obama's Cuba policy change. He even leveled a personal attack on Rubio by suggesting, of all things, that strong foreign policy advocate Rubio was an "isolationist" who prefers to withdraw to our borders rather than mix in the world with "peace and commerce."

Rubio responded with a stark assessment that Paul called "rude and insulting." Paul simply doesn't know "what he is talking about," Rubio proclaimed. There is doubt in these precincts that Paul even knows where Cuba figuratively is or that over 70 fugitive American criminals, including murderers, have fled to Cuba and live like Communist Party bigwigs at the pleasure of the Castro brothers. Does he know that there are 8,000 or more Cuban political prisoners today? Or that American citizens were murdered by Cuban Air Force pilots over international waters?

As Florida is the key to the Presidency in 2016, Rubio and Bush have stepped up and landed on the right side of the Florida political landscape that will be mined for cash and votes in the important 2016 Florida primary. While it is impossible that two major Florida Republican candidates can emerge from a Florida primary, there is no case to be made by Paul there. Given that political probability, Paul forfeits Florida and probably military-oriented South Carolina to either Bush or Rubio, with Bush being the favorite.

It will cost $1 billion to win the White House in 2016. Despite Rubio's proven ability to raise money nationally through his established PAC, the odds of his outraising Bush are slim. Bush family connections, the GOP establishment and people who sense that Bush might be the most formidable opponent for Hillary Clinton — they can raise $1 billion.

Bush may be dragged down by his family name and/or his views on education and immigration. Or another governor or former governor may catch fire or Rubio may be propelled forward and upward — surprisingly — by Raúl Castro.

After Obama unveiled his 18-month secret negotiation with Castro's Cuba, Raúl Castro spoke to what passes for an "elected" Cuban parliament; Castro declared, according to The New York Times, that "we won the war." If Bush is waylaid by family name or anti-establishmentarianism, Rubio might be able to ride Castro's braggadocio to the White House.

One thing is certain, Rand Paul will never make the White House by way of Florida by siding with vicious Communist dictators Raúl and Fidel Castro, whose henchmen attack "Women in White" marching in Havana for free speech.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New America News Service of the The New York Times.