(CNN) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted Tuesday that the protests and rallies by Tea Party activists across the country are having an impact on lawmakers' decisions about running for another term.
"Do I think that negative atmosphere that's been created by the Tea Party and by others certainly goes into the thinking of Members? I think it does. I think you honestly have to point out that it does," Hoyer told reporters at his weekly pen and pad session in the Capitol.
But Hoyer maintained that Tea Party activists had nothing to do with Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak's announcement last week not to run for re-election. "Bart Stupak is a very courageous Member; he wasn't forced out by anybody." Hoyer said he took Stupak at his word that representing a large rural district made it tough to spend time with his family.
The Majority Leader said "I would urge all the members who are here to run, to seek re-election." He noted that currently more House Republicans have decided to retire than House Democrats, and argued that if the atmosphere was a big factor then the opposite would be true.
Hoyer spent part of the recess campaigning for several fellow House Democrats, including those in Florida and Pennsylvania and observed that the political atmosphere was "somewhat toned down" since Congress passed health care before the recess. Hoyer said Democrats who supported the bill reported positive feedback on health care. He said Pennsylvania freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, "indicated that her phone calls had turned around very substantially, from substantially negative to substantially positive."
But the Maryland Democrat said protests would continue, saying one man in his district held a sign calling him "a tyrant and a traitor" and that "there are obviously still some people who are angry out there."
Hoyer singled out Chris Baker, a radio talk show host who spoke at a Sarah Palin-Michelle Bachman rally last week in Minnesota, who referred to Democratic members of Congress as "lying, thieving, commies." Hoyer said that kind of rhetoric "creates an atmosphere and a debate that is neither constructive and can sometimes be dangerous."