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As Trump praises Putin, Rubio again finds himself in awkward spot

Donald Trump's praise for Vladimir Putin again illustrates the awkward spot Marco Rubio finds himself in with his former presidential primary rival.

"My sense is those views will probably change once he understands better who Vladimir Putin truly is – that's my hope," Rubio told a Guardian reporter in Washington on Thursday, matching other recent comments.

That's a notable display of restraint from Rubio, who has been a vocal critic of Putin. In Iowa last October, the presidential hopeful devoted a speech to U.S-Russia relations.

"Under my administration, there will be no pleading for meetings with Vladimir Putin. He will be treated as the gangster and thug that he is. And yes, I stand by that phrasing," Rubio said.

"Even as we must confront Russia in Europe and the Middle East, we need to increase our support to the Russian people. It is important to note that our concerns with Russia are not with them – for it is they who suffer most from Putin's lies, thievery and repression. Unlike this President, I will speak frankly about who Vladimir Putin is and what his regime represents."

Rubio called Putin a thug again on Thursday but his soft handling of Trump speaks to the dynamics of the upcoming election.