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In St. Louis area, Obama pounds drum for health-care initiative

As he did in suburban Philadelphia earlier this week, Obama framed the debate in his 35-minute speech in St. Charles as a choice between doing something about the health-care system or leaving it unchanged, even as insurance companies announce double-digit rate increases.

"I don't believe we should give either the government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America," Obama said. "I want to give you more control over health care in America."

His visit to Missouri, a state he lost in 2008 by less than one percentage point, came against a backdrop of mounting industry opposition to his proposal.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has announced a $10 million advertising campaign opposing Obama's proposal. Demonstrators in St. Charles displayed signs reading "Health Care Strictly a Power Grab."

A senior administration official said the advertising effort "validates our argument that the bill is good for American families and not necessarily good for the insurance industry."

'This gets harder'

But the official, who spoke about internal White House strategy on the condition of anonymity, said the gathering opposition from the chamber and other groups "should be a warning sign to members of Congress."

"This gets harder and not easier as time goes by," the official said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday that Obama had not made any phone calls to undecided lawmakers so far this week. Obama planned to meet at the White House on Thursday with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in separate sessions on health-care legislation.

"We are not backing down, we are not quitting St. Charles, and we are going to get this done," Obama concluded. Then he waded into the cheering crowd to shake scores of hands.

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