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Story highlights

Trump's 100th day in office falls Saturday

Obama was delivering a paid speech

(CNN) —  

Former President Barack Obama hailed the political resilience of his signature health care law at a private event Thursday, pointing out that Obamacare is now more popular than his successor trying to repeal it: President Donald Trump.

As Republicans in Washington sputtered again this week in their efforts to undo the law, Obama noted to an audience in midtown Manhattan that “the Affordable Care Act has never been more popular – and it’s more popular than the current president,” according to a person in the room who paraphrased the comments.

Trump has recorded historically low approval ratings for a new president, while public opinion on the health care law has improved gradually amid Republican efforts to get rid of it.

Obama also predicted Thursday that it will be challenging for Trump and fellow Republicans to make any sweeping changes to a law that now provides health insurance for so many people, as he remarked how difficult it was for him to get Obamacare enacted into law in 2009.

While many Republicans have publicly said they don’t like the health care law, Obama said according to the person in the room, they are now confronting the fact that many of their most vulnerable constituents have benefited from it.

Trump has a 44% approval rating heading into his 100th day in office, according to a new CNN/ORC poll this week – the lowest approval rating of any newly elected president at this stage. In that survey, 36% said they approve of the way Trump is handling health care policy, and 47% said they favored Obamacare.

Thursday’s event featuring Obama was closed-press and off-the-record, and hosted by the A&E network for a private audience, according to a source. Obama was interviewed by famed author and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, with the question-and-answer portion lasting about one hour.

The timing of the ex-president’s pointed remarks about Obamacare – one of his landmark achievements – was especially noteworthy because of the continued struggles that Trump and Republican lawmakers had this week in trying to repeal the law.

01:42 - Source: CNN
Past 100 day moments on CNN

A bill to repeal-and-replace Obamacare was yanked from the House floor last month because House leaders couldn’t get enough GOP support for the legislation – an embarrassing moment that left a blemish on the first months of Trump’s presidency.

This week, the White House attempted to revive the failed bill by making an 11th hour push for a vote before Trump’s 100-day mark Saturday. While a revised bill garnered the endorsement of some conservatives, it still didn’t get enough support from the rest of the House GOP conference. House leadership announced Thursday night that there would not be a vote on the bill this week.

Three months after leaving the White House, Obama has been slowly reemerging in public. He spoke in public for the first time earlier this week in Chicago at an event with young leaders at the University of Chicago.

But his advisers say Obama is not yet ready to jump back into the political dialogue, and is content to be a behind-the-scenes adviser to national Democratic leaders for now. Obama has been on vacation, delivering speeches, and he and former first lady Michelle Obama are also working on respective memoirs.

Recently, Obama has received criticism for reports that he will receive $400,000 to speak at a health conference in September.

Obama spokesperson Eric Schultz insisted that speaking fees will not shake the former president’s convictions.

“As we announced months ago, President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time. Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record,” Schultz said in a statement. “With regard to this or any speech involving Wall Street sponsors, I’d just point out that in 2008, Barack Obama raised more money from Wall Street than any candidate in history – and still went on to successfully pass and implement the toughest reforms on Wall Street since FDR.”

An Obama spokesperson declined to comment on whether and how much Obama was paid to speak at Thursday’s A&E event.