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President Obama makes his case for his health care overhaul on a radio show hosted by Michael Smerconish during a live broadcast from the White House. Obama also took phone-in questions from the show's listeners. - 


Tess Vigeland: Today, President Barack Obama made the case for his health care overhaul to a fairly skeptical audience: Conservative talk radio listeners.

After major government interventions in the banking and auto industries, the president is trying to calm fears that a "government takeover" of health care is next on his agenda.

Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE: Conservative radio host Michael Smerconish didn't waste much time before asking the question a lot of his listeners want answered.

MICHAEL Smerconish: There's a perception out there that you want it all. You want to be in the banks, you want to be in the automotive industry, and now you want to be in health care. Can you address that mind-set?

PRESIDENT Obama: I absolutely can. First of all, look...

The President said government involvement with the banking and auto industries started under his Republican predecessor. As for the health care system...

PRESIDENT Obama: I would love the private marketplace to be handling this without any government intervention. The problem is, it's not working.

As talk radio hosts go, Smerconish is a moderate. He even voted for Obama. And his questions were polite, in contrast to what you might hear elsewhere. The callers were respectful, too, like Susan from New York.

Susan: We're very concerned that most of the money will actually go, instead of taking care of people, it'll go to the cost of administering a huge government bureaucracy.

The success of Obama's health care proposals may depend on winning over people like Susan. That's according to Democratic media strategist Peter Fenn.

PETER Fenn: One thing that he learned throughout the long, two-year campaign was that you have to go to the middle, you have to go to those who may initially disagree with you. You have to persuade people.

But on his signature issue, the president is finding it hard to be heard above the din.

I'm Joel Rose for Marketplace.