Senate Democrats went on the defense Thursday for former President Obama as 2020 candidates honed in on criticizing parts of his legacy during the debates this week. Democratic White House hopefuls questioned Obama’s policies, particularly on immigration, health care and trade, during Wednesday night’s debate, largely as a way to try to target former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE, who is an early front-runner for the party’s 2020 nomination. But Senate Democrats, as well as high-profile officials within the party, rallied to Obama’s defense on Thursday, questioning the wisdom of criticizing a former president who remains popular in the party. ADVERTISEMENTAsked if he agreed with the 2020 tactics, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Tim Scott to introduce GOP police reform bill next week MORE (D-Ill.) said “absolutely not.” “I mean, you can disagree with him, and I have, but the bottom line is he was our party standard-bearer, he was the leader of our nation. He did an extraordinary job and I think he should be given that recognition by those who are running for president,” Durbin said. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (D-N.Y.) declined to specifically address the 2020 candidates when asked about their tactics on Thursday, but noted that Obama remains popular and touted the administration’s accomplishments. “I think President Obama is a very, very popular figure in America to this day because he did a very good job. Did he accomplish everything? No. You compare the Obama administration to this administration, it’s night and day and Americans are realizing that,” Schumer said. Progressive candidates have embraced “Medicare for All” and similar proposals, viewing the Affordable Care Act, the signature health care law of the Obama administration, as inadequate. It’s a shift from the 2018 elections when warning that Republicans were trying to nix the health care law and its benefits was central to the Democratic strategy to win back the House. During Wednesday night’s debate, New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioProtesters splash red paint on NYC streets to symbolize blood De Blasio: Robert E Lee’s ‘name should be taken off everything in America, period’ House Democratic whip pushes back on calls to defund police: We need to focus on reform MORE took aim at Obama’s record on deporting immigrants, while Julián Castro, Obama’s Housing and Urban Development secretary, said Biden hadn’t “learned the lessons of the past,” referring to the Obama administration. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.) also accused Biden of trying to “have it both ways” by both trying to embrace and distance himself from parts of the Obama administration’s legacy. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not,” he said during Wednesday night’s debate. Though Obama was viewed as the more progressive candidate when he challenged then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE (D-N.Y.) for the party’s nomination in 2008, Democrats have shifted dramatically to the left since the end of his administration less than three years ago. Booker softened his criticism of Obama on Thursday, saying he wouldn’t be in the race if Obama was running for a third term. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.) separately told reporters on Thursday that she had “nothing but praise for President Obama.” Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Obama to speak about George Floyd in virtual town hall GOP group launches redistricting site MORE, Obama’s first attorney general, warned Democrats in a tweet after the debate to “Be wary of attacking the Obama record.” “Be wary of attacking the Obama record. Build on it. Expand it. But there is little to be gained — for you or the party — by attacking a very successful and still popular Democratic President,” he tweeted. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.), a 2020 contender who took part in the Tuesday night debate where Obama was largely a nonissue, gave the Obamas a shoutout in a tweet on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMnuchin indicates openness to more PPP loans in next COVID-19 relief bill Coronavirus Report: The Hill’s Steve Clemons interviews Michelle McMurry-Heath Republicans turning against new round of ,200 rebate checks MORE (D-Del.), a Biden supporter, told CNN that he was “really surprised” that 2020 candidates were using Obama’s legacy as a line of attack. “I was really surprised at how much criticism there was of literally the most popular, most recent two-term American president,” Coons said. “To the extent we are going to review President Obama’s record, I think we should be highlighting some of its strengths rather than re-litigating some of the questions about it.”