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THE SITUATION ROOM
Voters Send President Obama Mixed Messages; Maine Voters Reject Same-Sex Marriage; Interview With RNC Chairman Michael Steele, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine
Aired November 4, 2009 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: We're cutting through the spin about election results. How should President Obama move forward right now after getting some the mixed messages from voters? This hour, tough questions for the party chairman about what they gained and what they lost.
A new defeat for same-sex marriage -- this has been a losing issue across America dozens of times now. We are going to tell you how the vote results in Maine fit into the bigger picture.
And the president's half-brother goes public about his own problems, and their father's dark side. Stand by to hear from a member of the Obama family you may not have known about until now.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Publicly, the White House suggests the 2009 elections had such a minimal impact on the president that he watched a basketball instead of vote returns. His Chicago Bulls, by the way, won by two points -- his political score a lot less clear-cut right now.
The bottom line, in the biggest contests, Democrats lost governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, but won special House elections in New York State and California.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, with more on the reaction coming in from the folks over there.
Dan, what are they saying?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House saying that those two Democratic defeats are not a referendum on President Barack Obama. They are dismissing those losses and instead playing up a victory in a congressional race, the only one that they believe really matters.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): Recovering from a bad election hangover, the president played up his own victory a year ago.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Election Day was a day of hope. It was a day of possibility. LOTHIAN: Senior White House aides are spinning losses by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds as local elections that -- quote -- "didn't involve the president." And they echo former Vice President Al Gore's assessment that the defeats will have no will lasting impact.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there's a danger of reading too much into it. The off-years in New Jersey and Virginia often turn out to go opposite from the year before. And I -- I wouldn't read too much into it. Of course, if it have gone differently, I would have read a lot into it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.
LOTHIAN: But downplaying the election results as local stands in contrast to the president's actions. He attended events for both candidates, even parachuting in the weekend before the election to campaign vigorously for Governor Corzine.
CROWD: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
LOTHIAN: And in previous off-year elections, Democrats have played up gubernatorial victories. Take 2005. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, then a congressman, said -- quote -- "Democratic wins across the board could have a positive impact on the party's 2006 recruiting efforts."
Now the White House and key Democrats are left touting two special election victories, one in California and the other in Upstate New York, where Bill Owens won in the 23rd Congressional District.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It was a race where a Republican has held the seat since the Civil War. And we won that seat.
LOTHIAN: Wolf, that was also a race that got a lot of attention. Vice President Biden paid a visit. And also there was this internal battle among Republicans between a more conservative Republican and a more moderate Republican.
It eventually forced that moderate out of the race. By the way, President Obama, we are told, has made some phone calls to all the winners last night to congratulate them. He also last night called Deeds and Mr. Corzine to offer his support -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How much concern, Dan, is there over at the White House that the results in New Jersey and Virginia specifically will be a source of concern for a lot of those moderate and conservative Democrats; they may not be willing to support his complete agenda right now?
LOTHIAN: That is a very good question. And, in fact, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, was asked that question today. He said that he doesn't believe it will be a factor, that, in fact, he's not concerned at all that this election, what happened last night, will have any impact up on Capitol Hill when it comes to dealing with some of the president's top priorities, like health care reform.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian is over at the White House.
Dan, thanks very much.
And stand by here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Later, I will be speaking with the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod. We will get his reaction to what happened yesterday.
But now to a stinging election defeat for gay rights activists. Maine voted to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage. It's an issue that's failed every single time it's been on the ballot in this country. Supporters thought Maine might be different, but it wasn't.
Brian Todd is taking a closer look at the vote in Maine and the national trend that has been unfolding now for some time.
What are you seeing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, supporters of gay marriage in the state of Maine are taking some comfort in the fact that they did get about 47 percent of the vote in a high turnout.
But if they make another run at this, the national trend does not look good for them. We are going to show you a map here. In 31 states, gay marriage has been put to a popular vote. In all 31 states, it has been defeated. Now, a couple of states tried it more than once, but each time the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage has ended up in defeat among voters.
And the national polls are consistent with that. The most recent poll on the subject showed 40 percent of voters are strongly opposed to gay marriage. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll in May showed 54 percent did not believe gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to get married.
Wolf, the national trend not looking good as far as this initiative.
BLITZER: Maine's Democratic governor, though, suggesting he may try again?
TODD: That's right. But, if he does it, he may have to try another avenue. We are going to show you another map here. Four of five -- we actually don't have that map, but I can tell you four of the five states where gay marriage is legal -- they are in New England -- Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire -- Iowa is the fifth state -- in each of those states they passed gay marriage through court ruling or legislation.
So, if the governor wants to try that, he's going to have to try to ram it through another way. It's just not going to happen by the popular vote, if past is prologue.
BLITZER: Yes, but a lot of disappointment in the gay community...
BLITZER: ... that this failed yesterday.
TODD: Right. It's a region where it has shown support before, and it didn't happen yesterday.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Brian, thanks very much for that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the Democrats could be in for some serious bloodshed come those midterm elections next year, if yesterday's races in New Jersey and Virginia are any indication.
Voters in both those states elected Republicans governor. The message was pretty clear. It's the economy, stupid. Exit polls showed more than 80 percent of voters in both states said they are worried about the direction of the economy during the next year. And more than half of them said they are very worried.
Another trouble spot for the Democrats, those independents, who were key to President Obama's White House victory last year. They broke big for the GOP yesterday, and exit polls suggest the Democrats had a hard time turning out their base, including the first-time minority voters and young people who voted for Obama last year.
Nevertheless, most voters in both Virginia and New Jersey said that President Obama was not a factor in their vote. But if the administration can't do more to lessen the impact of this recession during the coming year, then yesterday's elections could be a sign of serious trouble in the midterms, when most governors, all of the House members and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot.
Of course, the White House is dismissing the New Jersey and Virginia losses as -- quote -- "two very local elections" -- unquote. They say nothing about the president's standing with the American people right now. Well, they have to say that, don't they? President Obama campaigned for the Democratic candidates in both those states, and they both lost.
So, here's the question. What can the Democrats do to keep from getting their noses bloodied in next year's midterm elections? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, and you can post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Were you up way into the night last night awaiting the returns, Jack?
CAFFERTY: Not way into the night. I actually fell asleep before they called New Jersey, but I was up -- up until that point. They were getting some early returns from New Jersey. But I'm an old man. I go to -- I have to get my rest.
BLITZER: You need a few hours of beauty sleep.
CAFFERTY: Oh, thanks very much, like you're some day at the beach.
BLITZER: We will talk, Jack. Thanks very much.
CAFFERTY: You bet.
BLITZER: Twenty-three Americans believed to be CIA operatives are sentenced to prison by an Italian court. It's an unprecedented ruling on the practice of seizing terror suspects from other countries.
And the Supreme Court debates this question: Can prosecutors be sued if they framed two innocent people who wound up behind bars for years? The Obama administration's stand in this case may surprise you. Jeff Toobin is standing by.
And President Barack Obama's half-brother says he was beaten by their father. Why is he coming forward with that now?
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A stinging court verdict today against almost two dozen Americans, most of whom are believed to work for the CIA. It came from an Italian court, one prosecutor saying this verdict -- quote -- "shows governments and institutions that the fight against terrorism has to be carried out in accordance with the law. There are no shortcuts" -- end quote.
Let's go straight to CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, in London for more on this story.
Give us some background, Paula. What happened?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, 22 former CIA operatives and one U.S. Air Force colonel, Wolf, are now convicted felons in Italy, they -- saying now that they deny any of those allegations.
But what they are linked to are taking a suspected terrorist, Abu Omar, off the streets of Milan in 2003 and then taking him to Egypt to be tortured. He is the one who has brought these allegations and this case into court.
Now, human rights groups say that in fact this is the first case of its kind. And Italian prosecutors as you just quoted really taking this case to the limit and saying, look, even though you're fighting the war on terror, a country's laws must be obeyed.
Wolf, the Americans in this case really denying any involvement, and they feel that they have been made to be the scapegoats here. Nonetheless, it doesn't matter. As of right now, Wolf, they are international fugitives, and if they try and leave the United States, they risk arrest -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's been the reaction from the U.S. government so far, Paula?
NEWTON: Well, it's been very interesting. You know, earlier today, we did have reaction from the Pentagon, you know, saying that, in terms of jurisdiction, they were disappointed with the verdict with the colonel.
But, in terms of the other 22, the CIA again holding up the no- comment, the same thing they have been doing for more than three years in this case. It goes without saying, through her lawyer, we spoke to one of those convicted to five years, Sabrina de Sousa. She feels she is angered. She says she feels like she's been stabbed in the back.
And she has a warning for any U.S. citizen working abroad, saying, look, your government will not back you up -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Paula Newton, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, for some analysis of what is going on.
Practically speaking, these Americans who are all in the United States right now, presumably, what does this mean for them?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they certainly can't go to Italy. That's for sure. And the question of how or whether they will be pursued in other countries I think has to be considered an open question at this point.
This is a real criminal conviction in a country where we tend to honor reciprocal legal arrangements. So they are in a -- they are in no jeopardy as long as they are inside the United States, but, if they were to leave, they are potentially at risk for being jailed and brought to Italy.
BLITZER: Because even if they went to a third country, like England, let's say, or France, Interpol could have a warrant out for their arrest. They have been convicted by an Italian court.
TOOBIN: That's why this is such -- so troubling. It would one thing if they only had to stay out of Italy, but, because of Interpol, because of the reciprocal nature of these agreements, they are potentially at risk almost anywhere they go.
BLITZER: What are the ramifications going forward for the CIA, indeed for other U.S. officials? TOOBIN: Well, working for the CIA is risky because one of the things you do when you are a CIA agent, at least in part, is break the law of other countries. You break and enter. You -- you pay bribes.
Now, often, CIA agents have what they call a liaison relationship with the host government. And, here, Italy is an ally. You would think that there would be a successful liaison relationship.
Here, the system broke down. It remains somewhat of a mystery how. Did the Italian government go back on some agreements? Did the CIA go beyond what the Italian government agreed to? Was this a rogue operation? All those questions remain unknown, but this just underlines the risk of doing this kind of work overseas for the CIA.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the Supreme Court case, a fascinating Supreme Court case, the justices now hearing arguments.
There's an allegation that prosecutors knew they were fabricating evidence against defendants, making it all up. They were sentenced, spent 20 years in prison, and they knew the whole thing was wrong. And the question now before the Supreme Court, are these individuals who were in jail, wrongfully imprisoned, can they go ahead and sue the prosecutors?
TOOBIN: You know, Wolf, this has become a bigger and bigger issue, as the Innocence Project has used DNA and other attempts to show how many innocent people there actually are in prison, and they had served, many of them, very long terms. And the question always comes up, can't you sue the prosecutor who framed you, who did something really awful to make you lose all those years of your life?
What the Supreme Court has said previously is, prosecutors are immune from lawsuit for anything they do inside the courtroom. Anything you do or say as a prosecutor in court, you can't be sued for. The issue in this case is, what if, before you go to court, you set up a corrupt deal to prosecute someone unlawfully?
What if you frame someone by setting up the testimony in advance? Is that act immune from civil lawsuit? And the justices actually seemed pretty sympathetic to the plaintiffs in this case, to the wrongfully convicted guys.
BLITZER: And the Obama administration's position on this is fascinating.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, the Obama administration may be perceived by a lot of people as liberal, but they are the government. And the government tends to stand by the government.
And here, in this case, they are supporting the county in Iowa that says these prosecutors are immune from suit. The -- the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, thinks that civil lawsuits should not be hanging over the head of prosecutors. And they want this lawsuit thrown out. But even some conservative justices seem pretty suspicious of that argument. BLITZER: Yes, and the solicitor general, Elena Kagan, writing a brief saying, you know what, throw it out, agreeing with the Bush administration.
Very interesting development.
Thanks very much, Jeff, for that.
TOOBIN: OK, Wolf.
BLITZER: You might say yesterday was independents day. Since they helped sway yesterday's election, how can Democrats and Republicans sway them? We're talking about the independents as all we go forward.
I will speak with the chairman of both parties, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine. They are both here this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And what if you hit a casino jackpot, but then you're told you didn't win? For one man, $166 million came and went.
BLITZER: It may be late in hurricane season, but a tropical storm is developing.
Let's check in with Chad Myers for more on what we know.
What do we know, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It has a name, Ida, I-D-A.
Here's Nicaragua. Here's Panama and Costa Rica. And there is the storm. It is moving toward the northwest at about six miles per hour. It's well south into the Caribbean. And you would expect that, because that's where the water would be the warmest.
It will travel across Nicaragua for the next couple of days, across Honduras, and then eventually possibly getting up toward -- towards Cancun and Cozumel. And you know what's next after that? That's the Gulf of Mexico. Let me take you to where we're talking about.
Here's Tegucigalpa, Costa Rica, Panama, well on down to the south here. This is not a very populated area that this -- this first storm, as it makes landfall, will make landfall on, a very, really unpopulated part of the country here.
It will come on shore. It will make some waves and move in through here (INAUDIBLE) and then into the mountains of Honduras and Guatemala. And this is the biggest threat of Ida, the flooding that could happen here, the flash flooding and the loss of life from all of this water getting into the mountains, getting into the streams.
Now, here we go. We will stop this just for a second. There we are, all the way up here past and into Cancun, Cozumel. This has a long way to go before anybody in the U.S. has to worry about it, but certainly next week. We will keep watching -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Keep watching, as we always do. All right, Chad, thanks very much.
Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Fred, what is going on?
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
Well, stocks went up in early trading today on news that the pace of job layoffs was slowing. Then, prices dropped back after the Federal Reserve announced it would keep its key interest rate unchanged, at almost zero. In its statement on the economy, the Fed said that it did not see any major improvement in the near term.
And Israeli naval commandos say they boarded a freighter near Cypress and found hundreds of tons of missiles, rockets, light arms and mortars. The Israeli government says a ship sailing under the flag of the Caribbean island of Antigua was shipping the arms from Iran through Syria to the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.
Syria's foreign minister dismisses the claims, calling the Israeli commandos official pirates.
And imagine this. Bill Seebeck of Daytona Beach, Florida, had been playing a slot machine for about half-an-hour when it went totally nuts, a jackpot of more than $166 million.
Well, not really. The Seminole Hard Rock Casino said the machine had malfunctioned and he hadn't actually won a dime. Well, eventually, Seebeck and the casino did agree to a payout of an undisclosed amount, but you can bet it was not $166 million.
Something tells me, Wolf, he got a lot of public support there, and maybe that casino decided, you know what, maybe we should give him a little something.
BLITZER: I'm sure they gave him more than a little something for that.
WHITFIELD: Maybe a couple cool million.
BLITZER: Whatever they gave him, it wasn't $166 million. That's a lot of money, indeed.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Fred, for that. Some cliffhangers from election 2009 -- we're going to update you about some of those big-city mayoral races and whether race and sexual orientation are issues after all.
Plus, is Sarah Palin leading a war within the Republican Party? I will ask the GOP Party chairman, Michael Steele, about his party's losses and wins last night and where Republicans go from here.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: It was meant to be a day of protest against the United States. Instead, a lot of Iranians came out to challenge their own leaders -- just ahead, today's story of protest and crackdown on the streets of Tehran.
And we will also get an update on the spreading danger of swine flu and a personal plea to pregnant women from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Thomas Frieden is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And a top White House adviser looks back at yesterday's elections and forward to passing health care reform before Christmas.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
To the victor go the spoils. As we look at winners from last night's elections, we're also looking at key mayor's races.
In North Carolina's largest city, Charlotte, Anthony Foxx became the first Democrat elected mayor there in more than two decades. Atlanta does not yet know who will be its next mayor. No one pulled more than 50 percent of the vote, so there will be a runoff December 1 between the two top vote-getters, Councilwoman Mary Norwood and former state Senator Kasim Reed. Norwood hopes to become Atlanta's first white mayor in more than 30 years.
In Houston, the two top vote-getters will face off in a December runoff as well. City Comptroller Annise Parker vs. former City Attorney Gene Locke. Parker hopes to become Houston's first openly gay mayor. Locke could become the city's second African-American mayor.
As we look over all the election results, we're also looking at how the independent voters voted. In New Jersey, 30 percent of the independents voted for Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, but a whopping 60 percent voted for the Republican challenger, Chris Christie.
It was a similar situation in Virginia. Thirty-three percent of the Independents supported Democrat Creigh Deeds, while 66 percent went for the Republican, Bob McDonnell.
Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger. She's looking at all these numbers for us.
A lot to digest here. The Independent voters clearly went for these two Republican candidates more than the Democrats.
What does that mean?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What a difference a year makes, huh, Wolf?
Remember, back in 2008, Independent voters favored Barack Obama by eight points. This time, they were willing to take a look at Republicans and vote for Republicans, not because they dislike President Obama. Our poll shows he still has quite a high approval rating, but it's because they don't think the Democrats are delivering. And there's economic anxiety out there.
This is good news for Republicans. But by 2010, Republicans have to be able to say this is what we're going to do for you. It's not going to be enough just to say we're not Barack Obama and the Democrats.
BLITZER: The news for the Republicans was very good in New Jersey and Virginia. The Republicans were pretty united in both of those places behind their respective candidates. It was a very different situation in upstate New York, in that congressional district.
BORGER: Sure. The Democrat ended up winning in a Republican district because the Republicans divided but they didn't conquer. And this is going to be a question going forward for the Republican Party, Wolf, because you have the litmus test, Republicans who say if you don't adhere to our orthodoxy on every single issue, we're going to primary you, you mainstream Republican. And if that happens, they could just hand those congressional races or those Senate races to the Democratic Party.
So, you know, the Republican Party has a big decision to make about how it's going to behave. And in truth, Wolf, the establishment Republicans in Washington, the leader of the Republican Party, they may not be able to have any control over this.
BLITZER: Well, let's ask, Gloria, the leader of the Republican Party, the chairman, Michael Steele. He's joining us now live.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Hey, Wolf, good to see you.
BLITZER: Gloria is going to stick around and join me in the questioning as well, Mr. Chairman, so let's get right to the first question. And Gloria raised a good, appropriate question, which is this: There was a clear cut choice between the conservative candidate in upstate New York and the Democrat, a very liberal Democrat. The liberal Democrat won.
What does that say to you? STEELE: Well, I think what it says is that you're looking at a special election that had a flawed selection process, quite frankly. That was a process in which a handful of county chairmen, along with the state party leadership, selected or pre-selected this candidate, Scozzafava, to run. Not a reflection of the base, not a reflection certainly of the Republican and Independents in that district. And there came a point where that primary got played out, and that's what we've seen over the last few weeks.
It is not the way I would have run it. And, of course, my concern, as addressed to the party at the time, was this would be problematic. And we tried -- my job is I've got to support the nominee chosen by the party. But the reality of it is, it was a process that was flawed from the beginning. It was doomed to create a problem, and it put conservatives rightly back on their heels, because it was not necessarily reflective of the views -- her views were not necessarily reflective of the views of the majority of the people in that district.
BORGER: Well, Mr. Steele, do you actually have any control over this?
STEELE: No. Go ahead.
BORGER: Well, you don't have any control over this. So does this mean we're sort of in for watching a civil war between the sort of purists in your party versus the big-tenters, if you will?
STEELE: No, not really. I don't think it's that extreme, Gloria. And I can understand how someone can get to that when you look at district 23 by itself, or even if you want to, you know, find some other races where there's a potential for that to happen. I don't think it's going to be that extreme because I think the win on last night really mattered to a lot of people.
We saw conservative principles being articulated by two candidates running statewide, and particularly in New Jersey, very tough areas, that translated very well for the voters. Unfortunately, for me as a national chairman, I don't get to pick my winners and losers. I don't get to pick my nominees.
I have to live by the decisions of the party. And my goal now is to double back with the state party, the county parties involved in that district, because we're going to have to replay this next year, as you know.
STEELE: This was just a placeholder. You know, the nominee -- the candidate who won last night is going to have to run again, and I think we'll take that seat next November. I'm not worried about that. I just want a clean selection process so that the nominee is reflective of the people who live in that district.
BLITZER: Well, are you worried, Mr. Chairman, that Sarah Palin, for example, or Rush Limbaugh or others in the conservative movement are going to go into some of these contests and go after the more moderate Republicans who might actually have a better chance of winning a general election?
STEELE: Well, I hope not in the context in which you're raising the question, Wolf. I would just put up, what would Reagan do?
Reagan saw the party as an opportunity to take our conservative values and translate them across the political spectrum, to invite Independents. And Reagan -- what were eventually known as Reagan Democrats to be a part of the most expansive opportunities that this nation has seen in a long time.
So I'm hoping that's not in their nature. I don't think that's the case.
I think, you know, certainly they will have their opinions, and that's fine. My responsibility though as the national chairman is twofold -- raise the necessary funds to win elections, and then go out and win those elections. So we're going to be working very hard to put good candidates in place, and I think they will be candidates that all Republicans of all stripes will be proud of.
BORGER: Are you going to be talking to folks from the Club for Growth, for example, the group that really encouraged the conservative to run in that race in upstate New York? I mean, you're all about expanding the base.
BORGER: They want to redefine the base, essentially. So can you call a summit here, Mr. Chairman and -- what can...
STEELE: Summit at my place. No. You know, I think it's going to be one of those things -- you know, we're going to talk about this, because the bottom line -- and this is the new frontier that the party is now beginning to face, Gloria, and that is this: New York is different from California, it's different from Florida, it's different from my home state of Maryland.
Not every Republican in each of those areas is the same. I can't necessarily run a New York Republican in South Carolina or a South Carolina Republican in California.
We have to understand and appreciate as a party that our tent is big enough to embrace those who are with our core principles and values on economy and wealth creation and the role of government, and national security and defense and the like, and trust the judgment and leadership of those on the ground and the people ultimately who will elect them. I don't think we as a party need to be in a position where we're going around putting up litmus tests and standing at the door with a piece of paper to check people off.
People don't want to join that party. People don't want to be a part of that.
What we're saying is all are welcome, but there are some values that are very important to us. And I think that's been a big part of the debate that we've seen over the last few months.
So, I want Republicans to be grown where they are, to represent the communities they are from. And as Wolf can tell you, we had in Maryland Connie Morella from Montgomery County, and we still have Roscoe Bartlett from western Maryland. Both Republicans; one very liberal, one very conservative. But every year when it was important, they would go in and vote for Newt Gingrich for Speaker of the House.
If we replace that liberal or moderate Republican with a Democrat, they are voting for Nancy Pelosi. They're not voting for Mr. Boehner or Mitch McConnell in the Senate.
So, those are factors and variables that we have to keep in mind as well. We can win the fight but lose the war, ultimately, because we don't have enough members in the House or the Senate to control the agenda and to get the kind of policies in place that we think will help America.
BLITZER: Michael Steele is trying to expand that base of the Republican Party, which is...
BLITZER: ... which is his job.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.
STEELE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Congratulations on those big wins in New Jersey and Virginia
STEELE: Thank you
BLITZER: I see a big smile on your face, and you deserve to have that smile.
STEELE: It's taken nine, 10 months to get to this smile, baby. Let me tell you.
BLITZER: Better to win than to lose.
STEELE: All right.
BLITZER: Thank you.
STEELE: Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to get the other side of the election story from the Democratic Party chairman. Tim Kaine is standing by live. He wasn't able to help his party hold on to the Virginia governor's post, job he now has. Does he share any of the blame?
We'll ask him what's going on. Gloria will be here as well.
Plus, we've caught up with the president's half-brother and asked him about his claim that he was beaten by his father, the dad Barack Obama barely knew.
And later, he's reminding pregnant women that swine flu could be devastating to them and to their unborn children. A top health official has a very direct, very personal plea to pregnant women, and he'll make it. The director of the CDC is standing by.
BLITZER: We just heard Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, boast about his party's election wins yesterday in Virginia and New Jersey. Let's get the other side right now.
Joining us is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the outgoing governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine.
Governor, thanks very much for coming in.
GOV. TIM KAINE (D-VA), DNC CHAIRMAN: Wolf, glad to.
BLITZER: Gloria is joining us in the questioning.
Virginia has done well for the Democrats in recent years. You were elected, Mark Warner, Jim Webb.
Was it a case yesterday of just simply having the wrong candidate? Was that the problem in Virginia?
KAINE: Well, you know, Wolf, we have a tradition. You know it, the listeners may not, that for 32 years, the party that wins the White House then loses the governor's race in Virginia. I don't know exactly why, but I don't think it's a coincidence.
Certainly, we can had a challenging race here. Our nominee, Creigh Deeds, had run four years ago against Bob McDonnell and had lost in a race for attorney general. So, when Creigh got the nomination, I think everybody knew he was the underdog going up in that rematch race.
We've won some races with underdogs like Jim Webb and me, but every underdog doesn't win. And so, although Creigh is a wonderful public servant, you know, he just couldn't close the name recognition and fund-raising gap that Bob McDonnell had built up over four years as a state official.
BLITZER: He was crushed by, what, 18, almost 20 points?
KAINE: It was an uncharacteristically wide margin, especially, as you point out, five years ago, Republicans winning a statewide race in Virginia wouldn't have even been newsworthy. It was so expected like the sun coming up tomorrow. But in the last few years, '05, '06, '07, '08, Democrats have done very well. But, you know, we're winning our share of races, but we're not going to win every race.
BORGER: Governor, how much responsibility does the White House bear and do you bear as chairman of the DNC for this loss? KAINE: Well, you know, we're going to -- others will assess that, but, look, let me tell you about the White House and the president.
BORGER: No, no. I want you to assess it. I want you to tell us.
KAINE: OK. Then I'll answer it directly.
Virginia voters have high regard for the president. The big -- the best poll that I've seen was a poll that was done last week. "The Washington Post" poll had 2,000 sample size live interviews. President Obama's approval rating, his job approval rating in Virginia, is at 57 percent.
That's about three or four points higher than how he did on Election Day a year ago. Exit polls showed that he was viewed favorably both in Virginia and New Jersey. So, this was not voters in our state or New Jersey saying anything about the president.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you, Governor, because we have some polls -- CNN/Opinion Research Corporation polls -- that show his job approval number at 54 percent, which is impressive, across the country, not just in Virginia. But when you hone in on specific issues, the most sensitive issues, for example, how is President Obama handling health care? Forty-two percent approve, 57 percent disapprove. How is President Obama handling Afghanistan? Forty-two percent approve, 56 percent disapprove.
Maybe that explains why the Democratic candidates had some problems. Not that they don't like President Obama, they don't like his policies.
KAINE: Well, but I think that is maybe a little bit too simplistic, Wolf, because the polls that I've seen show that it's not -- the president is popular in Virginia, not just they like him, but they think he's doing a good job. The poll that I'm referencing, "The Washington Post" poll, said that his job approval was at 57 percent among registered voters in Virginia just a few days ago. And this is in a very large sample size poll. And so, I don't think you can read these elections, particularly a rematch election like we had here in Virginia, where the stage was pretty much set between these two candidates four years ago, as an indication about the president.
Similarly, in New Jersey, as you know, Governor Corzine was dealing with a very tough hand. He was down double digits through much of the summer. They closed very furiously to get within an eyelash, and that was an indication of the president being there campaigning with him. We're obviously also very interested in that congressional race in upstate New York.
KAINE: Yes, Gloria?
BORGER: Let me ask you, because lots of folks are saying this is really about economic anxiety and it's about jobs.
Let me read you something that Maureen Dowd wrote in "The New York Times" today.
She said that, "Limbaugh is right. The Democrats tend to dither too much. President Obama will have to step it up on jobs and fixing the deficit if he wants to block conservatives from stoking the anger of Americans who only see a recovery on Wall Street, especially given the Republican sweep in top races on Tuesday night."
So, does the president have to kind of get the deficit under control and, most important, jobs, jobs, jobs?
KAINE: Well, let me talk about both.
The jobs issue is occupying a tremendous amount of time. And as you know, the job losses in this country, which were at over 750,000 a month in January, are now down to less than a third of that. And we just saw last week gross domestic product starting to grow in a robust way for the first time in nearly two years.
Obviously we've got to see more growth, and the president and his team are focused on that. But the job loss issues have been dramatically reduced, and we're starting to see the economy grow again. And we feel very, very good about that continuing. And as it does, that's how you get the jobs issue under control.
On the deficit, the president, beginning about two or three weeks ago, started to lay out a series of measures with respect to the deficit to follow from earlier actions -- cutting of programs earlier in the year to save about $17 billion, reductions or eliminations of some defense weapons systems that were viewed as obsolete that were costly, that aren't needed. So, the president is wrestling with those issues, but I think the American public understand that when you're in a hole this deep, the toughest recession since the 1930s, that you didn't get into overnight, you're not going to climb out of it overnight.
But the good news is the economy is growing again. And voters are giving, you know, the president high job approval for helping make that happen.
BLITZER: Governor Kaine, thanks very much for coming in. Congratulations on the wins in those two special congressional elections in New York State and in California.
KAINE: Thanks, Wolf.
We think that New York 23 win may be a portent of things to come. The year started with Senator Specter being ridden out of the Republican Party, and it may come to a finish with Assemblywoman Scozzafava being basically chased out of the primary -- of the election by her own party.
BLITZER: Well, we'll talk about that. We'll have plenty of opportunity. BORGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Shocking claims from President Obama's half-brother. He says their father beat him.
And more protests in Iran, some timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy. Some protesters vowing to continue the rage now at their own government.
BLITZER: Another developing story unfolding just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's check back with Fred to see what's going on.
What do we know -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Well, Wolf, more on that gruesome story out of Cleveland. It appears now police say they have come across remains of what may be the eleventh body found in the home of a convicted rapist, Anthony Sowell, in Cleveland.
This comes on the day that Sowell actually found himself in court today. And the court also denied bond for him. And this also comes on the day that investigators were to start tearing down walls to see if they could uncover any more remains. And, in fact, they have, according to police, the remains of an eleventh body.
He is now facing charges of rape, felonious assault, kidnap and aggravated murder in all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this story with you, Fred.
Thanks very much.
Meanwhile, President Obama has always acknowledged that the father he barely knew had his share of problems. But now the president's half brother is coming forward with horror stories of being beaten.
Our senior international correspondent, John Vause, caught up with him in China.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama's half-brother looks a little like the president. He even has some of the same mannerisms. And Mark Obama Ndesandjo says they also share an abusive father.
VAUSE (voice-over): He's an Obama you probably never heard of -- Mark Obama Ndesandjo, the president's half-brother. An engineer by trade, he lost his job in the U.S. Seven years ago and moved to the booming city of Shenjen in China's south, where he owns a small chain of restaurants and, as seen in this YouTube clip, teaches piano to orphans.
MARK OBAMA NDESANDJO, BARACK OBAMA'S HALF BROTHER: In my own way, I have tried to make a difference.
VAUSE: After dodging the media for almost a year, he's speaking out now. For one, he's written a book, a semi-autobiographical story called "From Nairobi to Shenjen." And in that book, he reveals that Barack Obama, Sr. The father he shares with the president of the United States, was often drunk and physically abusive.
NDESANDJO: My father beat me. He beat my mother. You just do not do that. I shut these thoughts in the back of my mind for many years.
VAUSE: For years, he struggled with that name, Obama. Few here ever knew about his famous family connection, but then something happened. A year ago, as thousands gathered in Grant Park to celebrate his brother's victory, his own despair, he says, became hope.
NDESANDJO: I saw the millions of people who loved or supported my brother, Barack. And in the process, in some weird way, I came to terms with many things that I had shut out of my life, including the Obama name.
VAUSE: Being a presidential brother is not easy. Think Billy Carter and Roger Clinton. Mark Obama says now he wants to live his life and tell his own story, not have it told by others.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
VAUSE: And over the years, Mark Obama says he's only met a few times with his brother, but plans to catch up and introduce his new Chinese wife when President Obama makes his first official visit to China later this month -- Wolf.
BLITZER: John Vause reporting for us from China.
Wow! What a story that is.
Who will get the swine flu shot first -- U.S. Troops or terror suspects?
Stand by for some new information coming in from the Pentagon.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is what can the Democrats do to keep from getting their noses bloodied in next year's mid-term elections.
Durran writes: "This should be a wake up call to the Democrats -- stick together. Push the Democratic agenda -- health care, Wall Street reform, closing GITMO, etc. Because we might not get another chance and the success of the agenda will cure the problem of losing."
R. writes: "Democrats win if they stick to the promises in the campaign. The big insurance companies are bleeding the country. Go with health care with a public option or don't count on my vote."
Charlie writes: "They can move to the middle of the political spectrum, where the country resides and where they ran in 2008."
Richard in Texas: "They'd better start delivering on their problems instead of blaming Bush. It's getting very, very old very fast. If Obama didn't want to have to clean up after Bush, then he shouldn't have run for president. Obama knew what he was up against when he ran. Obama and the Democrats need to take responsibility and stop blaming everyone else. What they inherited is exactly what they ran for."
Stephen in Virginia Beach says: "What can they do to keep from taking a shot to their little Congressional snouts? How about anything? Get something done, for crying out loud, especially that health care reform stuff."
And Dave in Pennsylvania says: "As an Independent, I think the Democrats had better stop trying to date a girl that doesn't even want to look at them. There ain't no way the Republicans will ever dance with the Democrats. There ain't going to be no wedding ever. The Democrats had better find the nerve to do what needs to be done by themselves."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, back my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll do it, Jack.
And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, police officers high on hashish harboring Taliban militants, even killing coalition soldiers. The Afghan police force riddled with corruption and U.S. Troops turn it around. Also, Americans clamoring for the swine flu vaccine, but the government is tens of millions of doses short right now. I'll ask the director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention when will supply meet demand.
And fallout from Republican victories in the first major election of the Obama presidency -- what will it mean for the White House and the president's very ambitious agenda?