In a shift since her last presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton called Friday for lifting the trade embargo against Cuba, saying that holding off any longer is a "strategic error" for both countries.

"The United States needs to lead in the Americas. And if we don't, make no mistake that others will," Clinton sad during a policy speech in Florida, a crucial swing state with a large bloc of Cuban-American voters. "China is eager to extend its influence."

Clinton argued that engagement doesn't help the Castro regime, but rather threatens it, as lifting the embargo "advances freedom." Besides lifting the embargo, her plan for relations with Cuba includes allowing Americans to freely visit the island, giving more Cubans access to communication and the Internet and using American presence to support human rights in Cuba.

The United States recently re-opened an embassy in Havana and a Cuban embassy opened in Washington, D.C.

"If we go backward no one will benefit more than the hardliners in Havana. In fact, there may be no stronger argument for engagement than that Cuban hardliners are so opposed to it," Clinton said. "It's the last thing they want so it is precisely what we need to do it. Unfortunately most of the Republican candidates would play right into the hardliners' hands."

In a statement prior to her speech, the Clinton campaign chastised Republican candidates for their views on Cuba, saying they refuse to learn the lessons of the past are are in favor of "the same Cold War-era isolationism that has only strengthened the Castro regime."

Clinton specifically called out Marco Rubio's opinion that the U.S. should not normalize relations with Cuba as "dead wrong" and criticized Jeb Bush's view that freedom in Cuba is far away. She countered that Bush needs to realize that holding off relations with Cuba "hasn't worked, and move forward." She also scolded GOP candidates Scott Walker and Rick Perry for holding similar views.

But Clinton's views on Cuba were once closer to the Republicans she now criticizes. In a 2008 campaign statement, she said that she wouldn't support normalized relations with Cuba until the country moved towards democracy. She also did not favor ending travel restrictions at the time, saying that she did not favor any "wholesale, broad changes" to existing policies on travel to Cuba.

At that time, Obama also did not support relations with Cuba unless they moved towards democracy. In 2009, the Obama administration made it easier for Cuban Americans to visit and send money to their families at home, and in 2011, even further loosened restrictions.

In Friday's speech, Clinton took credit for the progress in Cuba during her time as secretary of state, saying that this was when she became aware of the importance of relations with Havana.

"So by the end of my term as secretary, I recommended to the president that we end the failed embargo and double down on a strategy of engagement that would strip the Castro regime of its excuses and force it to grapple with the demands and aspirations of the Cuban people," Clinton said. "Instead of keeping change out, as it has for decades, the regime would have to figure out how to adapt to a rapidly transforming society."