WASHINGTON -- Escalating his opposition to what remains of the health care legislation, former Gov. Howard Dean has taken more swipes at President Obama, after a contentious back-and-forth that led to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs publicly sniping at him on Wednesday.

Dean, who outspokenly championed the public option and also supported the Medicare buy-in, said Thursday on MSNBC's Morning Joe that he won't "vigorously" support Obama's re-election in 2012.

"I'm going to support President Obama when he runs for re-election," Dean, also a former DNC Chair, said. "Not vigorously.  I'm going to vote for him."

Although Dean hasn't withdrawn his support for Obama, he is a leading voice in the progressive community, and his dialed-down support of the Obama presidency as a result of this health care bill is likely to represent and ultimately fuel the sentiments among the president's core constituency.

The show's host, Joe Scarborough, pointed to this possibility. "'Not vigorously!," said Scarborough. "Boy, I can almost feel the confetti falling on my head here," probably referring to the delight among Republicans.

Dean also penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday slamming the bill, declaring that "Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform."

He ended by saying, "I reluctantly conclude that, as it stands, this bill would do more harm than good to the future of America."

In an attempt to stave off criticism from progressives, Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod said Thursday that Dean's criticisms are "predicated on a bunch of erroneous conclusions," adding that it would be "insane" to try and defeat this bill.

And Dean's push-back didn't stop there. His organizing group run by his brother, Jim Dean, sent out a furious email to members slamming Democratic leaders for gutting the public option and for pushing an individual mandate on consumers. It read:

Senate leaders are all over Washington claiming they finally have a healthcare reform bill they can pass, as long as they remove the public option. After all, they say that even without a public option, the bill still "covers" 30 million more Americans.

What they are actually talking about is something called the “individual mandate." That’s a section of the law that requires every single American buy health insurance or break the law and face penalties and fines. So, the bill doesn’t actually “cover” 30 million more Americans — instead it makes them criminals if they don’t buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess.

Progressives are deeply divided over whether this legislation is still worth supporting at all. While the blow-back is clear, a number of respected progressives continue to believe this bill remains worth passing as it will do more good than harm.

Obama has strongly championed the legislation, urging the public to get behind it.

"Your premiums will go up," said the president, responding to those who oppose the bill. "Employers will load up costs to you, and they potentially will drop your coverage, and the federal government will go bankrupt, because Medicare and Medicaid are on a trajectory that are unsustainable."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Dec. 16, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com