WASHINGTON — Though the banking industry has a strong chance of defeating the Obama administration's call to eliminate the thrift charter, its arguments for defending it appear weaker than ever.

Two of the primary reasons for preserving the charter — stronger preemption powers and broader interstate branching rights — appear headed for the chopping block, and the third — a focus on mortgage lending — is now increasingly suspect. Many observers doubt the wisdom of keeping a charter that focuses primarily on real estate lending, arguing that thrifts caused the savings and loan crisis and helped fuel the current crisis.

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