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Obama Leans On Doctors For Reform Push; No "Public Option"

President Obama returned to the health care debate with a familiar set of talking points, but omitted one phrase in his remarks: public option.

Standing in the Rose Garden flanked by a group of doctors from states represented by senators with swing votes, Obama talked about the health care debate that's stretched on "for months" now, including "crazy claims about death panels to misleading warnings about a government takeover of our health care system." He said what's "most telling" is that doctors and nurses who know the system best are among the "most supportive" of reform.

"These men and women here would not be supporting health insurance reform if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors. They wouldn't be here today if they believed that reform in any way would damage the very critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship," he said.

He then outlined components of reform that have emerged from various committees, which of course does not include a public option. Though the L.A. Times reported that there is a furious behind-the-scenes push by the White House to include it, the president made no mention of it today.

The doctors joining Obama on the stage were from Maine, Nebraska, Florida and Arkansas -- the first home to Sen. Olympia Snowe, and the latter three represented by Democrats who have key votes at various stages of legislation here. The president acknowledged some degree of politics in the selection, noting they represent "red states, blue states, [and] recalcitrant states."

Obama urged doctors to help him make the closing pitch for health care reform, since "nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do." Organizing for America, his former campaign organization now working through the Democratic National Committee, has physicians fanning out throughout the country to do just that.