Obama in Maine: Health-care law lifts 'burdens' off middle class

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, April 1, 2010; 5:55 PM

PORTLAND, MAINE -- President Obama drew a direct line Thursday between his health-care overhaul and the plight of the middle class, arguing that his signature domestic achievement would "lift one of the biggest burdens" facing millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.

His visit here to a state he won easily two years ago is the latest stop in his effort to showcase the benefits of the health-care law he signed last month. Obama's effectiveness in doing so could help determine the fate of his party in the November midterm elections.

Obama framed the legislation Thursday as an essential part of the country's economic recovery, with particular benefits for small-business owners and middle-class families, many of whom are the independent voters who supported him two years ago but who are now leery of the way he is governing the country.

As he did during a trip to Iowa last week, Obama cast the new law as the fulfillment of a promise he made to voters during a primary season visit here in 2008. He called it "a promise that our government would once again be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the middle class."

"I want you to know that we are working every day to spur job creation and turn this economy around," Obama told several thousand people gathered inside the Portland Exposition Building nearly all of them ardent Obama fans.

"And that's why we worked so hard over the last year to lift one of the biggest burdens facing middle-class families and small-business owners: the crushing cost of health care in America."

Although the popularity of health-care legislation received a small boost with its passage, recent opinion polls show that the country remains deeply split over its projected cost and effectiveness.

Scores of demonstrators gathered outside the arena here on a warm spring day to celebrate and denounce the health-care law.

Some held signs warning that the measure was a large step toward socialism. Others waved signs that read "Thank You."

Inside, the audience chanted "Yes, we can, Yes, we can" as Obama took the stage.

He shed his suit jacket and pushed up his sleeves before beginning a speech that struck some of the same populist and partisan chords of recent ones he has delivered on the same subject.

In his remarks, Obama again challenged Republicans to proceed with plans to repeal the law, urging them to "go for it." The dare has become a popular applause line on Obama's health-care tour.

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