Iowa City first stop on Obama healthcare blitz

* Obama to speak at University of Iowa

* Poll shows public divided on healthcare law

* Democrats wage ad campaign to boost legislators

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON, March 25 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama was
to travel to Iowa on Thursday for his first big speech touting
healthcare reform since signing the most sweeping new U.S.
social policy in decades into law.

Taking his public relations blitz outside of Washington as
he seeks to overcome public doubts and stiff Republican
opposition, the president was scheduled to make an afternoon
speech at the University of Iowa Field House in Iowa City.

Obama first announced his healthcare plan in the Midwestern
city in May 2007, launching a campaign that aides say led to
the measure passed by the House of Representatives this week.

Designed to revamp the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare
industry, which accounts for one-sixth of the country’s
economy, the law will extend health insurance to 32 million
Americans who lack it. It will bar practices like insurers’
refusing coverage to people with pre-existing medical
conditions, expand the Medicaid government health insurance
program for the poor and impose new taxes on the wealthy.

“The president believes it is important to continue to talk
about the many aspects of the law that will do precisely what
he said they’re intended to do,” White House spokesman Robert
Gibbs said Wednesday.

“Help small businesses that provide health coverage for
their employees. I’m sure there will be parents of those that
attend the University of Iowa that will have some interest in
keeping their children on a health insurance policy through the
age of 26,” he said.

The Senate was set to resume debating amendments to the
bill on Thursday and a package of final changes must be
approved again by the House after the Senate parliamentarian
eliminated two minor provisions.

Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill, have vowed
to try to repeal it. Officials from 14 states, all but one of
them Republicans, have filed suit in federal court claiming
that the law violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The White House says the suits are without merit.

In the face of opinion polls showing the American public
deeply divided about the healthcare law, Obama and his fellow
Democrats are mounting an aggressive effort to gain political
credit for passage of the overhaul, and to put Republicans on
the defensive.

But support for the law seems to be growing, according to a
poll released by Quinnipiac University on Thursday. Before the
House of Representatives passed the bill, 54 percent of
Americans surveyed disapproved of it, while 36 percent
supported it, the poll found. After the vote, the disapproval
rating dropped to 49 percent versus 40 percent.

But survey respondents said they trust Obama more than
Republicans in Congress to handle healthcare, 45 percent to 35
percent, compared with a 42-42 percent split before the House
vote.

Several groups that back Obama are waging a $5 million
television and radio advertising campaign in about 35
congressional districts to thank lawmakers who voted for the
bill and target Republicans who opposed it.

The goal is to provide political cover to Democrats facing
opposition in their home districts and slam Republicans in
swing districts who opposed the new law.
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(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Stacey
Joyce)

Iowa City first stop on Obama healthcare blitz