Obama fires up labor allies in health fight

President Barack Obama dusted off his most famous campaign speech Monday to get the labor union crowd "fired up and ready to go" in helping him pass healthcare reform.

Obama, addressing the AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, reiterated his support for a public insurance option — one of labor’s leading priorities in the healthcare reform debate.

The speech comes before Wednesday’s address to a joint session of Congress, where he is set to talk about his health plan.

Even though the president warned the crowd that he didn't want "give everything away" in Monday’s address, Obama did say he continues "to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs."

But the president, much like administration officials did over the weekend, seemed to open the door further to the idea of a "trigger" that would set the public option in motion only if the private sector failed to improve on both quality and price.

"I see reform where Americans and small businesses that are shut out of health insurance today will be able to purchase coverage at a price they can afford," Obama said. "Where they'll be able to shop and compare in a new health insurance exchange — a marketplace where competition and choice will continue to hold down cost and help deliver them a better deal."

The AFL-CIO has dug its heels into the sand over the public option, demanding its inclusion in any legislation Obama signs. This became clear after administration officials began floating the idea of dropping that option in favor of a trigger or a health insurance cooperative, leading to criticism from one of the president’s biggest group of supporters.

Obama noted the "funk" he has seen some of his supporters fall into as the battle of words has intensified over the August recess.

Acknowledging that funk, Obama reverted to campaign mode, telling the story of Edith Childs, whom he says taught him the now-famous phrase, "Fired up, ready to go" ahead of the 2008 South Carolina primary.

The president went off script as he retold the story in an effort to energize the crowd in Cincinnati, chanting, "Fired up! Ready to go!" with the crowd responding.

"It just goes to show you how one voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. If it can change a state, it can change a nation. If it can change a nation, it can change the world," Obama said. "Your voice can change the world. Your voice will get healthcare passed."

The president is set to meet with progressive congressional members and leadership Tuesday at the White House ahead of Wednesday's address.