FILE - In this March 2, 2020, file photo Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. Tillis, facing a competitive North Carolina reelection contest, “is looking forward to campaigning" with Trump, Tillis' spokesperson said. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File) Thom Tillis and Donald Trump
FILE - In this March 2, 2020, file photo Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. Tillis, facing a competitive North Carolina reelection contest, “is looking forward to campaigning" with Trump, Tillis' spokesperson said. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)

“There were problems [Obama] needed to surge,” North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said. “It’s a very different story.”

Six years ago, President Barack Obama neutralized the potentially epidemic ebola virus with an international response, deploying both troops and medical personnel into West Africa to provide assistance and build treatment centers. All the while he was roundly condemned by Republicans lawmakers. Now, some of these same Republicans are offering muted praise for Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, which has proven far more deadly due to the White House’s uncoordinated response.

Georgia Sen. David Perdue denounced Obama, claiming he “failed to lead” and “took a serious threat far too lightly,” but has had no criticism for Trump. 

“It’s a totally different situation,” Perdue said in an interview with CNN last week. “Given the uncertainty that we had at the very beginning, we’ve done everything we could. Right now [Trump] sees declaring Covid-19 as the enemy. We’re not fighting among ourselves. We’re all together: Democrats (and) Republicans should be fighting this virus.”

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North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis offered similar talking points when asked why he had not leveled the same harsh criticism for Trump as Obama. “There were problems [Obama] needed to surge. It’s a very different story,” Tillis said. “President [Trump] has made a number of good moves. When you’re in the middle of a crisis like this, I don’t think it’s productive to criticize everybody. It’s a very difficult job and lives are on the line.”

Perdue and Tillis are both facing difficult races, and are among a sizable group—including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst, a Republican of Iowa—whose attacks on Obama appear outsized given their refusal to turn the same eye on Trump. 

Approval ratings for the president’s handling of the coronavirus are in the basement, and economic growth, his calling card, has withered in the face of pandemic. Yet members of the GOP have continued to praise him even as he minimized the seriousness of the coronavirus, claimed that it would disappear with warmer weather, and refused to wear a mask publicly for the first five months of the pandemic while more than 131,000 Americans died. 

The Ebola epidemic claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people worldwide. Four people were diagnosed with the virus in the United States and two of them died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The coronavirus pandemic, on the other hand, has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States to date, with nearly 4.4 million confirmed cases of infection in the country.