House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that angst voters have expressed early this election year is the result of GOP obstructionism, not the Democrats agenda.
Hoyer's remarks come as Republican state Sen. Scott Brown has surged in the Massachusetts special Senate election in part due to his pledge to be the GOP's 41st vote to filibuster healthcare reform legislation.
Meanwhile, Brown has taken the lead over state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) in some polls tracking the election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D). Coakley has campaigned on her support of the Democrats' healthcare bill, appealing to Kennedy's role in trumpeting the issue through Congress for years.
But the issue seems to have fallen out of favor with Massachusetts voters who will go to the polls Tuesday night. A recent Suffolk University poll showed that 51 percent of voters oppose the “national near-universal health-care package” and 61 percent say it is too costly.
Other national polls have shown declining or stable support for the healthcare bill and the Democrats in Congress.
Republicans say that the fact that the race in deep blue Massachusetts is close shows the unpopularity of the healthcare bill and Democrats in Washington.
Hoyer, however, implied that the Republicans' strategy could backfire.
He said that Republicans see the failure of the Democratic agenda as politically advantageous for them this year, an attitude that voters dislike.
"People are angry, people are fearful, people are very concerned about where the economy is...Very frankly they knew that in November of '08 and they voted accordingly," he said. "They did not know, and frankly probably none of us in the room knew, how deep the recession was. But they knew the policies of the past administration were not working to bring about change."
He also deflected suggestions that the contest is a referendum on the Democrats and President Barack Obama.
"I don't need the Masachusetts race to tell me the struggles of the American people. I just need to go to the grocery store," he said.
The Maryland lawmaker did acknowledge that Democrats have been hit because they are the party in power and the economy continues to struggle.
"We're all pretty unpopular..Why? Because people don't feel good and we're the leaders and we're in office and they expected us to do something," he said.
Overall, though, Hoyer defended the Democrats' ability to right the ship.
"We've been trying to do something. I think we're making some progress," he said.