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Obama Steps Up Campaign for Health Care Reform

U.S. President Barack Obama is devoting most of his time and public appearances these days to one issue - reforming the nation's health care system. But concerns about the cost and scope of reform are growing among members of Congress and the general public. Mr. Obama is making an all-out effort to regain the upper hand.

President Obama is speaking out about health care reform on a daily basis - stressing its importance to the nation's long term economic well-being.

The latest stop on his campaign was the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he met with doctors, nurses and administrators on Monday. Afterwards, he told reporters that what he heard only strengthened his conviction that health care reform is needed now.

"We spoke about some of the strains on our health care system and some of the strains our health care system places on parents with sick children," said President Obama.

Mr. Obama said there is a health care crisis in America. And he said politics must not be allowed to get in the way of reform.

"The need for reform is urgent and it is indisputable," said Mr. Obama. "No one denies that we are on an unsustainable path."

The stepped up White House campaign for health care reform comes at a time when public support for the president's stand on the issue appears to be slipping.

A public opinion poll conducted by The Washington Post newspaper and the ABC television network indicates growing doubts among Americans about the president's handling of the issue.

Less than half of those polled - 49 percent - said they agree with his stand on health care. That is down from 57 percent in April.

Shortly after the poll results were released, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele delivered a speech attacking the president's push for health care reform.

"The Barack Obama experiment with America is a risk our country cannot afford," said Michael Steele. "It is too much, too fast, too soon."

Other Republicans have spoken in even tougher terms, with one senator suggesting health care could be Barack Obama's political downfall.

During his visit to the Children's National Medical Center, President Obama referred to those comments.

"This isn't about me," he said. "This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy."

The president has said he wants Congress to finish work on the legislation before its traditional long summer recess in August.

In a public television interview Monday evening on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Mr. Obama indicated the timing could slip. But he left no doubt that he wants to see a bill soon.

"If somebody comes to me and says it is basically done, it is going to spill over by a few days or a week, that is different," said President Obama.

The president also made clear he is not surprised by all of the obstacles opponents have tried to throw in the way of health care reform. He said that if the reform process was easy, it would have been done decades ago.