Democratic Party Insiders Warn Presidential Candidates Against Criticizing Barack Obama

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to young leaders from across Europe in a Town Hall-styled session.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the crowded Democratic primary field in virtually every single poll, which has made him a target of attacks from fellow White House hopefuls.

Criticism of Biden’s decades-long congressional career has not resonated with primary voters, however. According to a RealClear Politics average of polling data, the attacks have not changed much, given that Biden still maintains a comfortable, double-digit lead over the rest of the field.

Not reluctant to invoke former President Barack Obama both on the campaign trail and during debates, Biden has managed to survive criticism with relative ease, with other Democrats in the field not daring to challenge the Obama-Biden legacy. That changed during the second primary debate on Wednesday night, when some Democrats stepped into the uncharted territory, attacking Obama’s immigration and healthcare policy.

As Reuters reported, the candidates’ willingness to attack their party’s most popular member — Obama remains exceptionally popular among Democrats, many of whom consider him to be the best president of their lifetime — shocked Biden, who went on to describe the attacks as “bizarre.”

It is not only the former vice president that is upset with the fact that the former president’s legacy is being re-examined. According to a new report from Politico, Democratic Party insiders are warning presidential candidates against criticizing Obama.

“Stay away from Barack Obama,” Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf said.

“I don’t know why you would attack Barack Obama or his record or any part of him when he’s the most popular person in the party. And I don’t think it helps for the general election voters, either. I don’t know what they’re thinking,” he added.

Neera Tanden, the CEO and president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, drew a parallel between Reagan and Obama, suggesting that the Democrats should refrain from attacking the former president.

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“The GOP didn’t attack Reagan, they built him up for decades. Dem Candidates who attack Obama are wrong and terrible. Obama wasn’t perfect, but come on people, next to Trump, he kind of is,” she said.

“I think attacking President Obama is bad policy and bad politics,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said.

Echoing Blumenthal, former White House’s communications director Jen Psaki suggested that the candidates focus on attacking Donald Trump instead, especially since the former president is still beloved by the Democratic electorate.

The Biden campaign is seemingly using the opportunity to hit back at other candidates. Biden’s communications director Kate Bedingfield went on MSNBC to slam the White House hopefuls for “attacking” Obama’s legacy, urging them to shift their attention to Trump.