ANALYSIS: President Obama Challenges Rivals in Pushing Forward on Cuba

The president's policy proposals in Cuba are more than just politics as usual.

— -- By moving forward with a bold new policy toward Cuba, President Obama is calculating that his successors will not want to -- or be able to -- move back.

The president is practically daring the candidates who want his job to turn back the clock.

“This is a new day -- es un nueva dia -- between our two countries,” Obama said at his extraordinary joint news conference today with the Cuban president. “We’re focused on the future.”

Given the paradigm-shattering nature of the visit, responses from the major Republican candidates were fairly muted.

“I cannot wait as president to visit Cuba, but when I visit Cuba it will be a free Cuba,” Cruz said Sunday.

Now, Obama is turning U.S.-Cuban relations on their head with little apparent political consequence -- only in part because the president himself won’t have to face voters again. In polling shortly after the president announced the new steps in late 2014, more than two-thirds of Americans supported opening trade and ending travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.

Today’s joint news conference turned slightly awkward when Castro seemed to deny that Cuba has political prisoners. Obama didn’t respond, but he vowed to pursue “differences on democracy and human rights” that he would have to acknowledge are substantial.

But the president is calculating that Americans, including Cuban-Americans, are ready for a new start that can’t be stopped.

“There’s enormous hope that there can be reconciliation,” Obama said.