From NBC's Mark Murray
President Obama's town hall today in Montana was essentially a replay of the one he held in New Hampshire earlier this week. He started off by plugging his stimulus. Then he made his pitch that health-care reform would benefit those with insurance. And, in the Q&A, he received eight or nine questions from either supporters or polite critics -- a far different sight than we've seen at many of those congressional town-hall meetings.
The first critical question Obama got was from Randy, an NRA member, who was skeptical about how Congress was going to pay for health-care reform. "You are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million for free," Obama said. "So we're going to have to find some resources." The money, he added, would come from improvements to the health system and from tax increases on Americans who make more than $250,000 per year.
The president concluded, "Randy, I appreciate your question and the way in which you asked it."
The other critical question Obama received came from a gentleman who sells health insurance. He asked why the president was vilifying health insurance companies.
"My intent is not to vilify insurance companies," Obama replied, adding that if he were really trying to vilify insurance companies, his plans wouldn't provide for robust private health insurance options. (But like in his remarks in New Hampshire, the president did have some very tough words for the insurance industry.)
Some other observations:
-- Obama gave numerous shout-outs to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (MSNBC's David Shuster counted at least eight, but it seemed like more than that). Just askin', but do you think Obama's enthusiastic references to Baucus were an attempt to help placate liberals to accept what eventually comes out of the committee?
-- The president concluded his opening remarks like it was late October of 2008. "I need your help," he said. "Change is never easy. And it never starts in Washington; it starts with you.... This is not about politics. It is about helping people."
-- And he took some shots at the media in how they've covered the congressional town halls. (But here's a little rule in politics: If you're criticizing the press, you're often not winning the debate.)