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A tale of two kinds of town halls

From NBC's Mark Murray
So how do we square the contentious town halls that Arlen Specter (D) and Claire McCaskill (D) held today, versus the much more polite one hosted by President Obama in New Hampshire?

Did Obama stack the deck with supporters? (The White House insists it didn't, and Obama did go out of his way to solicit tough questions.) Or are people just nicer in New Hampshire? Or does the office of the presidency command respect -- even from political opponents?

Whatever the reason, the nine questions that Obama received at his town hall didn't resemble anything that we've seen over the past few days.

Perhaps the president set the tone early when he acknowledged the "long and vigorous debate" the country is having over health care. "That is what America is about," he said. "That is why we have a democracy."

But, he added, "I hope we will talk with each, and not over each other... Let's disagree over the things that are real," not the things that aren't.

Some other takeaways from Obama's town hall today:
-- as we previewed, the president contended how health-care reform would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those who have pre-existing medical conditions, and he had tough words for the insurance industry. "I don't think health insurance bureaucrats should be meddling."
-- he opened his remarks discussing the stimulus and argued how it is helping the economy. "There is no doubt that the Recovery Act has helped put the breaks on this recession."