White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday rejected the idea that public discontent with Obamacare was responsible for Democratic Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s narrow margin of victory in his gubernatorial race on Tuesday.

McAuliffe defeated his GOP rival, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 48 to 45.5 percent. The race came amid the botched rollout of the president’s signature domestic achievement.

The administration is on the defensive over the glitch-plagued website that registers consumers in new insurance exchanges and over reports that millions of Americans could be dropped from their coverage as insurers adopt to the new law.

Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday en route to Dallas, where President Obama will deliver an address on his health care law, that Republicans had sought to make the Virginia race a referendum on Obamacare and lost.

“For the first time in 40 years, a candidate from the incumbent president’s party won that office,” said Carney.

“The Republican candidate in that race made his name as an opponent of Obamacare, campaigned on the repeal of Obamacare, and lost,” he added. “The Democratic candidate embraced the Affordable Care Act, campaigned on the Affordable Care Act, and won.”

Political watchers suggested that public concerns with the botched handling of the rollout for Obamacare had helped Cuccinelli narrow his margin in the last days of the campaign. Polls had shown McAuliffe leading through much of the race.

But McAuliffe’s own pollster Wednesday argued that Obamacare had been a liability for Cuccinelli instead, saying that the GOP candidate’s rhetoric against the law hurt him with undecided and independent voters.