WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama plans to get much more assertive when he addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night at a critical stage in the health-care debate.
Top aides say his fiery Labor Day speech to an organized-labor crowd in Ohio was a preview of a more passionate case for reform that's coming later this week.
The top aides say the president is putting his own strong imprint on the speech to Congress. After advisers last week submitted various thoughts on what the speech should say, Obama spent much of the weekend at Camp David crafting the actual address, which currently is running about 37 minutes in draft form.
"He will be very forceful," one senior Obama aide said about the tone of the speech. "He will be making the case for action."
A second senior Obama aide said that while the president knows that a rousing organized labor crowd is a much different audience than a joint session of Congress - along with millions of Americans watching on television Wednesday night - Monday's speech set the stage for what will be a more aggressive case for reform than the public has seen thus far.
"He will make a strong case Wednesday night on what health-care reform means to Americans," the second aide said on Monday. "Today you began to see a preview of what you will see Wednesday night."
In Monday's speech, the president got fired up as he told a supportive crowd in Cincinnati that the country could no longer wait for reform after a vigorous debate that has lasted several months.
"The debate has been good, and that's important because we've got to get this right," Obama said to applause. "But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it's time to decide. At some point, it's time to act. Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done."
Top aides acknowledge the obvious: Obama has to come up big on Wednesday night to save the reform effort, with one senior aide saying "he's at his best" in a pressure situation like this.
But the top aides are also insistent that the media has focused far too much attention on angry town-hall events in recent weeks, and the Obama inner circle believes they are much closer to scoring a legislative touchdown than pundits are giving them credit for. "We're on the 10-yard line," said one senior aide.
Top aides also continue to say the president will be more specific on Wednesday night than he has been previously about what he wants included in the reform bill, though they're still cagey on what he will tell Congress about major provisions such as the public option.
Aides say the president believes the option of government-run health care is a "valuable tool" but refuse to speculate on whether he would be willing to drop the option in order to score a legislative deal.
In his Monday speech, the president once again voiced support for a public option but mentioned it only briefly in one sentence - and did not offer a passionate defense for it.
"I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs," he said before quickly moving on to other aspects of reform.
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