STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Now, you may not know Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson. But chances are you've heard some of his recent comments on the House floor.
Representative ALAN GRAYSON (Democrat, Florida): If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: die quickly. That's right, the Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.
INSKEEP: With those comments a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Grayson, a first-term congressman from central Florida became a hero in some Democratic circles and a figure of scorn for Republicans. Last night, he was back in his home district for a town meeting on health care. NPR's Greg Allen was there and filed this report from Tavares, Florida.
GREG ALLEN: Tavares is a lakeside community north of Orlando, usually quiet, but enlivened quite a bit last night by Grayson's visit.
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ALLEN: Outside the Tavares Civic Center - actually just a room attached to the local library - there were lots of signs and people for and against Alan Grayson. Some of the Grayson naysayers identified themselves as Tea Party Patriots, opposed to any government intervention in the health care system.
Irene Morningstar said she was a lifelong Democrat who voted for Grayson last November - now, much to her regret. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Morningstar was a registered Democrat until 2008, when she changed her party registration to Republican.]
Ms. IRENE MORNINGSTAR: He made that statement about the Republicans because he wanted the publicity. There's a lot of people that does not watch C-SPAN, so he hit all the news. And for the people does not know what had been happening, they're going to believe him, and it's a lie.
ALLEN: Morningstar blames Democrats for bottling up Republican bills and for rejecting amendments that she believes would overhaul health care in a more cost-conscious fashion.
As a couple of hundred Grayson opponents and supporters jostled with their signs outside the Civic Center, off to one side, 82-year-old Anna Smith was leaning against one of the building's brick walls. She said she'd have liked to sit down but forgot to bring her folding chair.
Smith said she was there because she believes it's important to have government involved in health care. She has been sick a lot lately and has had to depend on her family to help pay thousands of dollars of hospital bills - her co-pay under Medicare. I asked her what she thought of Grayson's comments.
Ms. ANNA SMITH: I'll be honest, I feel that he was telling the truth. Because in my case, I would have been dead. If I had not had my daughter to live with, I would have been dead.
ALLEN: Inside the hall, Congressman Grayson continued the tack he's taken ever since his presentation on the House floor drew so much attention two weeks ago.
After more than 200,000 views on YouTube, countless cable news and talk show appearances, he remains unapologetic. The only apology he's made so far - and one he repeats often - is to the 44,000 Americans he maintains die each year from inadequate health care according to a Harvard study.
It was an invitation-only crowd, open only to his constituents, but there were many who were skeptical - both of Grayson and Democratic plans to rewrite health care. People, like Rick Elwood.
Mr. RICK ELWOOD: It's a little bit insulting to hear you say, constantly, that the Republicans aren't offering anything up. They are.
Rep. GRAYSON: Listen, it's not about - I will say this vehemently - it is not about people's feelings, it's about saving lives. Okay. You can say you're insulted or anything else, but in the end, I'm going to vote for the thing that saves people's lives and saves people's money.
ALLEN: This is Alan Grayson's first term in what up to now had been a Republican district. That's led Republicans to list him as vulnerable - a congressman they might be able to knock off in next year's midterm election. If that seemed possible before, it hasn't gotten any easier in the last two weeks.
Grayson is a successful trial lawyer and one of the richest members of Congress. His staff says his new notoriety has been a fundraising boon. And so far, no prominent Republicans have stepped forward to challenge him.
As for Grayson, somewhat remarkably, he says despite his inflammatory style, he has no interest in partisan politics. His comments, he says, were intended to spur the debate over health care - and in that, he has been successful.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Tavares, Florida.
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