Washington (CNN) - As the House of Representatives prepares for a vote on Wednesday to repeal the health care law, the No. 2 House Democrat acknowledged Tuesday that Democrats have fallen short selling the public on the benefits of the law, and predicted the issue will be central in the 2012 presidential contest.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, asked by CNN about polls showing Americans are almost evenly split on whether to repeal the health care law, said those polls are evidence that Democrats have work to do. "Apparently none of us did a good enough job because public opinion is divided, and they are unsure of whether this legislation is going to be positive for them and their families."
During his weekly session with reporters, Hoyer said he believed health care will continue to be a major focus and will be central in the 2012 presidential election. "Clearly the president is up for re-election, this was a signature issue of his. He cared very deeply about it and I think that he's certainly going to be talking about it between now and the election, because I think it's going to be a very important issue in the election."
Asked about the tone of the debate, following a week's delay on the vote because of the Arizona shootings, Hoyer said leaders did not direct rank-and- file Democratic members how to discuss the GOP's health care repeal bill. But he added, "My expectation is that members will heed their own advice and the advice of others, and will I hope address the issues in a way that will deal with them on the merits and deal with them on a basis of respect for the contrary views, but state them strongly as to why this is important to defeat or to pass."
Referring to the House Republicans, Hoyer said, "Hopefully the rhetoric on their side will be the merits of why they believe alternatives will work better."