Former Obama Adviser: 'The President Is Not Prone to Victory Laps'

By Susan Jones | April 2, 2014 | 6:29 AM EDT

President Barack Obama , accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the Affordable Care Act, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - "This is a moment that is of extraordinary magnitude -- 7.1 million people signing up for this health care program -- the biggest government program put in place in decades," Bill Burton, a former aide to President Obama, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night.

Burton indicated that Obama was taking a well-earned victory lap when he declared on Tuesday that the debate is over -- government-mandated insurance is here to stay, and those who don't like the law simply don't want people to have health insurance, the president said.

According to Burton, Democrats "didn't have the cash on our side" to defend the Affordable Care Act as the law's critics were scaring people. That was one problem. The other problem, he said: "The president is not prone to victory laps. It's not something that the president does. And as a result, yes, it is something that Democrats have suffered from around the country."

In his remarks on Tuesday, President Obama said the Affordable Care Act "is doing what it's supposed to do. It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand.

"I've got to admit, I don't get it," Obama said. "Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance? Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. (Laughter.) Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more."

Burton told Rachel Maddow, "The problem now for Democrats is that we've gotten to a moment where Obamacare and the president's approval rating have sort of been decoupled. I think today (Obama's remarks) is a good leadership moment and it could change that.

"But the president's ratings have been more related to the economy, I think, than just Obamacare. And that's something that the president now hopefully will have some time to really focus in on, in a way that the American people can see that he's actively working on -- and working in their interest."

Burton said "there's definitely time for a momentum shift" -- away from Obamacare -- heading into the midterm election. And although the mountain is "very, very steep for Democrats right now," they are "doing everything they can" to win in November.

"I don't think that this election is going to be about Obamacare," Burton said. "I think this election is going to be about the economy. And the more the president can show the contrast -- and Democrats can show the contrast -- between the things that we're for, like an increase in the minimum wage; the fight on income inequality -- versus the Ryan budget that came out today, that's devastating for the middle class -- devastating for poor Americans who are really struggling to get by with all the cuts to food stamps and programs that help the poor.

"There's just real differences that now we can focus on in a way that we couldn't before, because people were so singularly obsessed with Obamacare."