MIAMI (CNN) – Campaigning in Miami Monday with powerful Cuban American leaders, Mike Huckabee made this promise:
"As president, I commit that we would veto any legislation that would lift the embargo that is currently in place, because we must keep that pressure on."
But that hard-line position on Cuba is an about-face for the former Arkansas governor.
In 2002, then-Gov. Huckabee wrote President Bush urging him to lift the embargo on Cuba, saying the U.S. position was harming agriculture and business interests, and providing Fidel Castro with a "convenient excuse for his own failed system of government."
Huckabee admits he has now had a change of heart, saying he's been educated by Cuban American leaders like Marco Rubio, the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, who endorsed his candidacy for president Monday.
"Rather than being seen as some huge change, I would call it rather the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for re-election as governor of Arkansas,” said Huckabee Monday, adding that his earlier position was intended to aid that state’s then-struggling rice farmers.
Now, said Huckabee, “I’ve got to look at this as an issue that touches the whole country, and because of the influence that the Speaker and the Hispanic community have had in helping me better understand it."
Cuban Americans are a powerful voting bloc in Florida's Republican primary January 29. Many are socially conservative, like Huckabee, but would be hard pressed to support him if he did not change his position, and oppose lifting the trade embargo with Cuba.
Sensing Huckabee’s vulnerability on the issue, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson’s campaign sent out a release titled “Huckabee: Mr. President, Lift the Cuban Embargo” late Sunday, just hours before the former governor hit the campaign trail with Cuban American leaders.
–CNN's Dana Bash