WASHINGTON - As the 2016 Republican presidential primary lurched ahead this week, no GOP prospect had a ride quite like Marco Rubio.

The Florida senator's White House aspirations took a hit when Jeb Bush, the state's former governor and Rubio's political mentor, announced plans to "actively explore" a campaign for president. Rubio was conspicuously quiet as party strategists suggested Bush's all-but-official entry jeopardized his protégé's presidential future.

Less than 24 hours later, Rubio was everywhere - seizing the moment presented by President Obama's shock announcement that the United States would restore relations with Cuba to become the face of the GOP opposition.

Quipped Republican operative Ryan Williams of Rubio, "He looks presidential today."

Rubio continued his media blitz on Thursday, hammering away at the Obama administration in Miami: "The implications of this decision will extend far beyond just Cuba," Rubio said at a news conference. He spoke there a day after granting more than a dozen national television interviews on the subject from Washington and being anointed by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the lawmaker who "knows more about this than almost anybody in the Senate - if not everybody in the Senate."

Just weeks before he's set to declare his 2016 intentions, the timing and foreign policy focus play to Rubio's advantage.

Rubio's roots have long been part of his stump speech. As the son of Cuban refugees, he passionately showcased his foreign policy expertise on national television this week and used the opportunity granted by Obama's action to try and step firmly out of Bush's shadow.

"If you decide to run for president, you do so because you want to be president, not you want to be president unless someone else wants to be president first," Rubio told ABC News. "I want to make my decision on the basis of where's the best place for me to achieve our agenda to restore the American dream."