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He took particular umbrag#e with “those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I’m not very popular and you see folks waving tea bags around,” referring to the anti-tax tea parties conservatives attended earlier this month that received heavy coverage on the Fox News Channel.

“I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we’re going to stabilize Social Security,” he said. “Let’s not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the recovery act, because that’s just a fraction of the overall problem that we’ve got. We are going to have to tighten our belts, but we’re going to have to do it in an intelligent way, and we’ve got to make sure that the people who are helped are working American families.”

The president said “it’s not like anybody should be surprised” with his actions since his Jan. 20 inauguration.

“There’s no mystery to what we’ve done,” he said. “The policies we’ve proposed were plans we talked about for two years in places like this all across the country with ordinary Americans. The changes we’ve made are the changes we’ve promised. We are doing what we said we’d do.”

Mr. Obama consistently used campaign-style language at the town hall, praising the “middle of America where common sense often reigns” and keeping an eye on the Show Me state’s swing status, reminding Missourians that he spent one of his last days of the campaign there.

Standing in the one competitive battleground state that went for his Republican rival in November, Mr. Obama said he likes getting out of Washington to hear from everyday people and added, “I don’t want to let you down.”