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THE SITUATION ROOM
Obama: I Support Same-Sex Marriage; Interview With Rep. Peter King; Politics of Obama's Decision; Prisoner Challenges President Obama; John Edwards Trial
Aired May 9, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, breaking news, President Obama's bombshell declaration that he supports same-sex marriage. This hour, he explains where his wife stands on the issue and how his children influenced his decision.
Plus, new information about the mole who penetrated the most dangerous branch of al Qaeda and snatched a sophisticated bomb. Investigators are learning more about the terrorists' new weapon.
And in the John Edwards trial, a former aide pulls back the curtain on Elizabeth Edwards' angry reaction to her husband's affair and his illegitimate child.
We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BLITZER: From this day on, Barack Obama will go down in history as the first U.S. president to endorse same-sex marriage publicly. We're following the breaking news and what it could mean for the country and for the presidential campaign. Listen to what the president told ABC News about his change of heart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the course of several years, as I talk to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are incredibly committed in monogamous relationships, same sex relationships who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf, and yet, feel constrained, even now that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is gone because they're not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, I've just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
You know, when I go to college campuses, and sometimes, I talk to college Republicans who think I have terrible policies on the economy or on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same- sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation that they believe in equality. They're much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples, and I -- you know, there have been times when Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table, and they've been talking about their friends and their parents, and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that, somehow, their friends' parents would be treated differently.
It doesn't make sense to them, and frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you'd expect, of course, gay rights activist are cheering the president's decision. Many social conservatives are condemning it. The Republican Party is accusing President Obama playing politics with a divisive issue in an election year. The president's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, had this to say just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had the same view on marriage that I had when I was governor and that I've expressed many times. I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. States are able to make decisions with regards to domestic partnership benefits such as hospital visitation rights, benefits and so forth of various kinds can be determined state by state.
But my view is that marriage, itself, is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's my own preference. I know other people have differing views. This is a tender and sensitive topic as are many social issues, but I have the same view that I've had since running for office.
I believe that based upon the interview that he gave today on ABC, it said that he had changed his view and you're a better judge of that than I, I just saw the reports that he had previously said he opposed same-sex marriage, and now according to ABC News, he's saying that he supports it. So, if that's the case, then you'll be able to make that determination on your own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A lot of questions about how the president's support for same-sex marriage will play out politically. He could even potentially face the backlash from a key part of his base, the African-American community. Let's talk about that and more with our CNN contributor, Roland Martin. Roland, how is this going to play out?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, I mean, obviously, we don't know because we're going to see what happens over the next several hours. I have talked to several pastors who were very strong Obama surrogates in 2008. Words used were shameful and pitiful. They said they are going to be forced to have to stand before their congregations in their pulpits and denounce the president's decision. And again, these are individuals who are not conservative pastors. These individuals who might be deemed to be liberal pastors, but they say they have a prophetic voice. Now, it's also understand historically, Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, he has also come out on this issue beforehand and did not affect his re-election when you look at African-American votes.
But I think one thing that we have to pay attention to, Wolf, is here, we keep talking about what the national poll say in terms of the majority Americans supporting same-sex marriage. But the key what you're looking at is what are voters saying? Thirty-two times, there have been referendums when it came to same-sex marriage.
Thirty-two times, LGBT supporters have failed to stop those and, so, voters have spoken, and so, I think we have to pay very close attention to the polls in the next seven to ten days in states like Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, even Florida, Ohio to see if this singular issue may very well move people to shift from President Obama to Mitt Romney.
I'm not necessarily sold on that, but it's something that we definitely have to pay attention to.
BLITZER: Because in the south especially, African-American Baptists whether in North Carolina, maybe even in Virginia, southern part of Virginia, shall we say, the support for the president has been historic, what, 95 percent?
Are you suspecting, though, Roland, some of those African- American voters simply won't vote this time or will they actually go ahead because of this one issue, same-sex marriage, and vote for Mitt Romney?
MARTIN: Well, first of all, what you have here is not just Black voters in the south when you look at 95 percent who voted for president who then Senator Barack Obama in 2008. So, he enjoys widespread support. I don't necessarily believe that you're going to see people who will say, you know, mass numbers say, I'm going to now shift to Mitt Romney.
The concern, though, is whether or not you're going to have the same level of enthusiasm. Now, here's what's interesting. The argument that was used prior to this decision and that was gays and lesbians have no other place to go, but President Obama is the exact same argument now being used against African-Americans saying they have no place to go.
Now, what happened on the LGBT side, we know through reporting, many of them closed their checkbooks as a result of the president's decision not to sound the executive order, not to come out for same- sex marriage. And so, I don't believe you're going to see massive peeling off of African-Americans, but I do think you have to pay attention to the level of enthusiasm.
You must pay attention to the kind of statements that are going to be made by religious leaders, and so, I don't think you're going to see the level of support, but in a close election, 50,000, 100,000 votes could very well make a difference as Senator John Kerry about how this issue potentially affected him in Ohio in 2004. And so, I think we pay attention to those state referendums, again, 0 for 32 in support for same-sex marriage.
That means voters have actually spoken, and so, I'm going to be very curious to see what the poll numbers look like and those 12 critical states, especially Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, even the western states over the next seven to ten days.
BLITZER: Yes. Only six states in the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Roland, your father is a pastor --
MARTIN: No, no, no. My wife is a minister, not my dad. My dad works for Amtrak.
BLITZER: OK. All right. Never mind, got bad information, but your wife is a minister. Give us a sense of how you think this is all going to play out in African-American churches this coming Sunday?
MARTIN: Oh, there's no doubt that you're going to see pastors address this very issue in their pulpits on Sunday, because, again, you have an issue here that is very delicate, and that is, if you are a pastor, you can take a partisan position or you can take a prophetic position. And so, that's going to be really the issue there.
I think what you're going see, I think you're going see pastors say they disagree with the president's decision based upon the bible, based upon what Matthew 19 says, but I think you're then going to say we also should not be focused on just one social issue and pay attention to the economy.
And I think the Obama campaign likely is going to want to shift the conversation in terms of who is going to be better for you, but again, it's going to be very interesting, the exact same arguments that were used against gays and lesbians by saying where else are they going to go, guaranteed you're going to hear the exact same thing take place when it comes to African-Americans because of this issue.
BLITZER: In the ABC interview, the president made it clear that his wife, the first lady, agrees with him, supports same-sex marriage. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And she feels the same way that she -- she feels the same way that I do and that is that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we're going to fix that technical issue. Some other audio coming in. Let me bring in Gloria Borger. Rick Santorum, the former Republican presidential candidate issued a lengthy statement. Among other things, he said this, he said, "The announcement today by President Obama should come as no surprise to the American public. President Obama has consistently fought against protecting the institution of marriage from radical, social engineering at both the state and federal level."
"The president recently opposed the North Carolina constitutional amendment, and of course, he refused to defend President Clinton's defense of marriage act before the U.S. Supreme Court. The charade is now over," Santorum says. "No doubt an attempt to galvanize his core, hard left supporters in advance of the November election."
A lot of similar statements along those lines are coming in from other conservative Republicans.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the beginning of that statement is accurate in the sense that it says it should come as no surprise to the American public, because the president's justice department has refused to defend the defense of marriage act, did repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and the president had all but given his support to gay marriage.
This is the final turn of the wheel, if you will. So, it does not come as any surprise, where I would disagree with Rick Santorum is that this was done to galvanize the left wing. This could create. It's got plusses and minuses for the president. It could galvanize the youth vote, which the president spoke about in his interview with ABC.
But on the other side, there are Democrats in Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, that could have problems with the president on this, particularly, Catholics, blue collar voters, even though the public is kind of divided on gay marriage. If you look in the battleground states, this could give the president some real headaches politically.
So, it's not a clear political call one way or the other. My sources tell me, look, the president needed to look decisive here. If he had let this hang on, if he had let it continue after Joe Biden said that he felt comfortable with gay marriage, it could have been more of a problem for the president.
BLITZER: I think we have the clip from the president in the ABC News interview speaking about Michelle Obama, the first lady.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you discuss this with Mrs. Obama, the same-sex marriage issue?
OBAMA: I did. No, this is something that we've talked about over the years, and she feels the same way that -- she feels the same way that I do, and that is that in the end, the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people. And, you know, I -- you know, we both are practicing Christians, and obviously, this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others.
But, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing, you know, at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it's also the golden rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated, and I think that's what we try to impart to our kids and that's what motivates me as president.
And, I figure the more consistent I can be in being true to those precincts (ph), the better I'll be as a dad and a husband, and hopefully, the better I'll be as president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president is clearly relieved that he's finally been able to take this position. I sense he's had this position for a long time, but now, he's actually been able to do it.
BORGER: It's interesting. He used the word consistent there. And what we heard from Mitt Romney today is accuse the president of flip-flopping on this issue. I think President Obama will probably accuse Mitt Romney of flip-flopping in the other direction, having been more liberal on the issue at one point when he was running for the Senate in Massachusetts in the 1990s and now becoming more and more conservative.
So, they're going to have that argument because in a way, Wolf, they both evolved, but in completely different direction.
BLITZER: Totally different directions. It will be an issue for the next six months out on the campaign trail. Stand by. We're going to continue watching the breaking news. A lot of people are only just now hearing about the president's new stand on gay marriage. We're getting powerful reaction coming into the SITUATION ROOM from voters out there.
And there's something else the president's critics are pouncing on today. We lost a big chunk of the primary vote in one state. Get this, to a prisoner. Yes, you heard that right, a prisoner. What's going on?
And new testimony about the way Elizabeth Edwards reacted to the mind-blowing discovery, her words, mind-blowing discovery of her husband's pregnant mistress.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Wolf, today's definition of political opportunism is spelled gay marriage. President Obama's been in office for three and a half years and has artfully dodged the question of whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Then, suddenly, a week or so ago, his vice president, Joe Biden, comes out and publicly says he doesn't see anything wrong with gay marriage.
And right away, people want to know where does the president stand? Then, the voters in North Carolina go to the polls overwhelmingly pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. Once again, the questions, where does the president stand? Then, suddenly, at three o'clock this afternoon, after three and a half years of not answering the question, Mr. Obama decides to take a position.
All of a sudden, he thinks same-sex marriage is a good idea. He's locked in what promises to be a close race against Mitt Romney, and so, picking this moment to pander the gay and lesbian community on the issue of same-sex marriage suits his political purpose, which is to be re-elected. One of the major broadcast networks interrupts programming to breathlessly report that the president has decided that it's OK for same-sex couples to marry.
But pardon me if I don't hyperventilate over all of this, we have real issues in this country for which President Obama has been glaringly short on answers. More than $15 trillion in national debt and an unemployment rate that's an embarrassment for the largest free market system in the world and the Congress that refuses to agree on whether it's daylight outside or not.
And the country suddenly is supposed to come to a screeching halt because President Obama was pressured into taking a position on a wedge issue? I'll pass. Oh, and at the end of the day, it's still up to the states.
Here's the question, is President Obama simply using gay marriage for political gain? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's" Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.
The laws on gay marriage certainly differ from state to state, and the politics of this issue are different depending on where you go. CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now to break it all down for us. What are you seeing there, Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you look at the trend line of general public opinion, look, from 1996, it was pretty wide apart here, those no, those yes, in favor, and it's been closing, closing, closing ifyou olpen it down (ph). And now, it's reached sort of a stasis (ph) in 2012 with about half of the population for it, about half against it, a tiny, tiny sliver more in favor of gay marriage.
But as Roland pointed out earlier, look at what's happened in the states at the same time. Even if that's what people tell pollsters at the actual polls, this has been overwhelming a movement in the country to say that people don't want it. Twenty-eight states with constitutional provisions defining marriage between a man and a woman, these are the dark blue ones.
Ten more are statutory provisions defining it between a man and a woman. Stature judicial recognition of same-sex marriage that has not yet taken effect and only three same-sex marriage is allowed in only seven in five that haven't decided anything.
If this is the map right now, and you compare it to the election map last time, you can see a few key places where this might be a real issue for the president, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, for example, where he won, and yet, these are states that have not been so warm to that issue. The question really is going to be, if this is a political move, and we don't know that it is, but if it is, who is he going after?
We do know this, younger voters overwhelmingly like this idea. More educated voters tend to like this idea, and in some of the states where he's had a hard time invigorating people, particularly, those young people who are so important to him, maybe this is an effort to get them to come back to life and to get back in this process.
He even mentioned them in this interview, Wolf. I think that's one of the things to watch for.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, we're going to stay on top of the story, the breaking news on what happened today, thank you very much.
Other news we're watching as well, including the suspect in the kidnapping of a family of four now on the FBI's ten most wanted list and facing new charges. Up next, the latest on where authorities think he is now.
Plus, there are new details about the bomb al Qaeda planned to use in that thwarted U.S. terror plot. Why one U.S. official says this time it was built to work?
BLITZER: We're learning more about the role Saudi Arabia played, apparently, an enormous role in that secret operation that thwarted an al Qaeda airline bomb plot. Sources tell CNN the mole who penetrated terrorist forces in Yemen was, in fact, under the control of Saudi intelligence from day one.
The sophisticated bomb that the agent snatched is being studied right now by U.S. counterterrorism officials in the United States. Joining us is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican, Peter King. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. PETER KING, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: I assume all of that is accurate. The very important role Saudi Arabia played in thwarting this bomb plot.
KING: Wolf, I hate to do this to you. I can't confirm any of that. That is -- you know, nothing has been declassified. I've had access to a number of top-secret briefings, and I tell you, it bothers me, not that you're reporting it, but that so many people are talking about something which is so classified which was, to me, the most top secret operation I've seen in the 20 years I've been in Congress where nobody, including the speaker of the House was even told about.
And he's second in line to the presidency. The chairman and ranking members of the intelligence committees weren't told, and yet, somehow, that leaked out. To me, the issue is who leaked this? Because that really put lives at risk. It that jeopardized the entire operation. And the fact that all of these things are being discussed now on something that was so top secret and would still could have ramifications, to me, is really -- is wrong.
And I am calling on the FBI to do a full investigation of how this was leaked, who's leaking it, and also, the CIA to do an internal investigation. And in addition to that, to have -- follow-up what General (INAUDIBLE) said about the DNI, director of the national intelligence finding out where the weakness was if there was one in the intelligence community.
Unless, this came from one of our foreign allies, Wolf, this came from such a small circle. Nobody in Congress knew about it. My understanding is very few, anyone in the FBI even knew about it, and yet, so much of this was leaked to the associated press a week ago, and now, it someone's leaked (INAUDIBLE). This is really dangerous to the national security.
BLITZER: Because you raise the question of whether perhaps the leak came from the foreign intelligence ally of the United States, presumably the Saudis, obviously. They knew all about it. The Yemenis, they apparently knew all about it.
If in fact, the initial leak from the associated press came from the Saudis or the Yemenis, there's a limit to what the FBI or the CIA or any U.S. law enforcement authority could do about that.
KING: Wolf, I'd say, what our law enforcement people should do is rule out that anyone involved in the U.S. did it. Obviously, if it's a foreign ally that did it or foreign power that did it, then there's, you know, diplomatic ramifications to that. But I want to rule out that anyone in the U.S., if it's a foreign country, it's a different story.
But, we have to rule out and make sure that nobody in the U.S. in the intelligence community or the administration or anyone in the law enforcement community who have (ph) access to this was involved in leaking it, because to me, this is literally a criminal offense.
BLITZER: The bomb itself was apparently going to be put into someone's underwear. Was it the ETN? What kind of explosive device was in the -- was in this underwear?
KING: Again, Wolf, all I'm going to say is it was a non-metallic device. The FBI explosive experts are still analyzing it. They're analyzing it as to content, as to impact, as to what type of defense we should use against it, what defense is possible against it, what we may have to do to change our tactics or our strategy or our methods of operations.
So, again, it is so premature for us to be talking about this, and I know people are talking about how many detonators there could be, which detonator could work or not work, what the backups are. To me, this is just dangerous the sign (ph) that we're doing it. We shouldn't be telling the enemy what we know and what we don't know and we shouldn't be telling the enemy whether or not we can defend against it and how strong our defenses are.
BLITZER: Well, right now, a lot of people are flying, and you've been briefed, obviously, without undermining U.S. national security secret classified information. Should the general public right now be concerned that, perhaps, there are other similar improvised explosive devices out there?
KING: Wolf, for my family or myself I would say fly. Obviously, I would say there is more of a concern than there may have been a month ago only because we are not certain, and I think again all of this talk and all of this leaking and all that only weakens our position as trying to find out whether or not there are devices and other devices and how far feel (ph) they've gone and what we have to be concerned about. Now I'm not aware of any particular threats myself, I mean anything specific, obviously, in view of what happened, you know over the last 10 days, two weeks we are looking for things such as this. We're trying to find out what else there is, but I would emphasize again, because of the leaks we've had, I believe that weakens our position, but no, I don't believe in scaring the American people by saying there is a particular threat out there, but obviously this gives us more reason for concern.
BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman thanks for coming in.
KING: Wolf thank you.
BLITZER: Some Obama opponents are hoping his decision to support same-sex marriage will help defeat him in November. I'll talk to a leading social conservative, Tony Perkins, he's standing by.
And John Edwards' late wife, Elizabeth, a key focus of a very emotional day of testimony in the former presidential candidate's trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news we've been following for the past several hours, President Obama's historic decision today to publicly back same-sex marriage. Joining us now is the president of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins who strongly disagrees with the president. Tony when you heard the news today, what was your immediate reaction? TONY PERKINS, PRES. FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I'll tell you, Wolf, I wasn't surprised. I will say somewhat disappointed, though, that the president would come out and say that he is for redefining marriage, but I would say this, at least now his words are in sync with his actions. He has been opposed to state marriage amendments. He has refused to defend the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. He has extended taxpayer-funded marriage benefits to same-sex couples, so at least now it's very clear where the president stands.
BLITZER: What's wrong with giving gay Americans the same rights as heterosexual Americans?
PERKINS: Well they have the same rights. What we're talking about is redefining of marriage in taking what 30 states have said that they prefer the traditional historic definition of marriage. It's a union of a man and a woman and what he's saying is, look, I'm for overturning that. In essence, that's what happens when the Federal Defense of Marriage Act falls in part because the president is refusing to defend it.
So this is going to be a real political issue. I think today there's celebration really in two camps, those advocates who are activists who are advocating for same-sex marriage and I think the campaign of Mitt Romney because the president, I think, has handed to Mitt Romney the one missing piece in his campaign and that is the intensity and motivation that Mitt Romney needs among social conservatives to win this election, and I think this could be the piece.
BLITZER: Do you agree with Mitt Romney that gay couples should at least be able to visit each other in hospitals if they're sick according to the same laws that a married couple, for example --
PERKINS: Well absolutely --
BLITZER: -- if someone is dying that the gay partner would be able to go there and see that partner?
PERKINS: Yes, I mean -- yes, I mean, who would be against that? And I think most of these benefits -- or most of these items are available to most couples, if not automatically, certainly by legal arrangement, but nobody is against that. What we're -- what's of concern is this is no longer theoretical. What we've seen since 2004 is that when the redefinition of marriage takes place in a jurisdiction, you lose parental rights. There's a conflict with religious freedom and so there's a bigger issue here than just simply two people wanting to live together. Nobody's opposed to that in terms of allowing him to do it. It's redefining marriage and the rest of society with it.
BLITZER: What about allowing gay couples to be on each other's health insurance policies? Would you have a problem with that?
PERKINS: I mean if -- if it's available to all couples who want to do it for brother and sister living together and they want to be able to be on one another's insurance, that's fine. What we're saying is that we shouldn't base special benefits upon a sexual relationship other than that of marriage which is a union that benefits society and that's why society has granted certain benefits to marriage is because marriage benefits society.
BLITZER: Do you accept the concept that gay people are born that way, that they really -- this is the way they were born. This is the way God wanted them to be?
PERKINS: No, Wolf, there is -- there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that it is genetic. Now let me say this. I have said that I don't believe it's a choice that someone wakes up and says I'm going to be gay. I do believe there are environmental factors that come into play here. There are experiences that come into play. So I would say there are some things that are certainly outside the control of the individual that shape them, but I would not -- again I would say when you look at the social science research there's nothing that says conclusively that this is genetic.
BLITZER: Most of the gay people I know say that from an early age they realized they were attracted to the same sex as opposed to the opposite sex, and it wasn't as if they were educated to do that or inclined in one way or another to do that. In fact, it made their lives a lot more difficult. They didn't really want to do it, but that was the way it was natural to them.
PERKINS: Well, again, that's why I say I don't think it's a choice in terms of somebody waking up one day. I do think there are more environmental factors that are at play here, and again, I simply go back to the research. There is nothing conclusive about the research saying that it is genetic.
BLITZER: Tony Perkins thanks for coming in. We'll continue this conversation.
PERKINS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: A new wake-up call for President Obama, he lost a big chunk of the primary vote in one state to a prisoner who is behind bars right now.
And the big question of the day is President Obama simply using gay marriage for political gain or in his heart of hearts did he do this out of political courage?
BLITZER: President Obama has never gotten much support in West Virginia, but his standing there may be hitting a new low. A man who is currently in prison actually got more votes in some counties than the president in West Virginia's Democratic primary. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is there.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just down the road from this West Virginia battlefield in the tiny town of Bolivar (ph) there is a war of words going on over the state's Democratic presidential primary between the man in the White House and the man in the big house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I didn't vote for.
ACOSTA (on camera): Who was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.
ACOSTA: You didn't vote for Obama --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No sir. I wouldn't vote for him if he was the last man in the world.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The town's mayor Robert Hardy (ph) like tens of thousands of West Virginians voted for Keith Judd (ph) who is currently in a federal prison in Texas. Hardy (ph) says he had no idea Judd (ph) was behind bars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know he was a prisoner --
ACOSTA (on camera): You voted for the prisoner?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't even know him, but I voted against Obama.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One of the mayor's constituents, Buck Russell, backed the president.
BUCK RUSSELL, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: The whole thing of it is he's finally getting the mess straightened out he got from Bush.
ACOSTA: Their debate sums up what was a surprisingly close race in West Virginia where the latest return showed Judd, who met all of the state's ballot requirements picked up more than 40 percent of the vote. Republicans immediately dubbed the primary "The Big Fail". In a radio interview in Denver Mitt Romney piled on.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) West Virginia (INAUDIBLE) an inmate got almost 40 percent of the vote against President Obama for the convention, so I think they have got more problems on that side of the aisle than we do on ours.
ACOSTA: Mr. Obama has been deeply unpopular in West Virginia ever since 2008 when he lost the state's primary to Hillary Clinton by 40 points. Just recently one of the state senators, Joe Manchin (ph), said he wasn't sure he'd vote for the president this fall.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, WCHS: I'm basically a pure West Virginia Democrat. I am not a Washington Democrat and I'm the first to tell you that. If you're looking for someone to (INAUDIBLE) the line because of the Washington pressure, whether it's a Democrat or a Republican, I'm not your -- I don't fit that bill. ACOSTA: And there are other warning signs for the president, in North Carolina where an anti-gay marriage referendum was approved by voters, 20 percent shows no preference over President Obama. In response a spokesman for Mr. Obama's reelection campaign said "the president got more votes in West Virginia than Romney. Additionally in the battleground state of North Carolina, not only did President Obama receive more votes than Mitt Romney, he received a larger percentage of the party vote."
(on camera): Why don't you like Obama?
MAYOR ROBERT HARDY, WEST VIRGINIA: I can give you a hundred reasons. I think he's the worst president the country ever had.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Back in Bolivar where the mayor and his friends meet every day to talk politics, hard feelings about the president linger. Their chief complaints, the economy, the deficit, health care reform and what one man sees as Mr. Obama's hidden agenda.
BILL HOAK, JEFFERSON CO., WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: In my opinion tried to compound racism. He's shown that he is trying to encourage racism, division through women or whatever, trying to split. I call it divide. I call it divide our country so you can win.
ACOSTA: Polls show President Obama has almost no chance of winning West Virginia this time around despite having a Democratic governor and two senators from the same party this state appears to be for now safely in the Romney column this fall -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly does. All right thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
The late Elizabeth Edwards center stage in her husband's corruption trial. That's next.
BLITZER: The late Elizabeth Edwards at the center of John Edwards' corruption trial in North Carolina. CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns is there.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the stand Wednesday afternoon deputy White House Communications Director Jen Palmieri, she was a communications adviser for John Edwards during his run for president in 2008. Also close to his late wife Elizabeth. Palmieri broke down crying as she recounted Mrs. Edwards' last days dying of cancer. Palmieri said Mrs. Edwards told her she was worried that when she died, there would not be a man around her who loved her.
Earlier, Palmieri had also dealt with reports of former Senator Edwards having an affair. She said she told him she didn't think that if the story was true, his campaign for president would be able to survive, because the story got right to the heart of what people liked about him. Palmieri said she was summoned to a meeting in a hotel room in Davenport, Iowa attended by both of the Edwards's as well as wealthy trial lawyer, Fred Baron and his wife Lisa Blue (ph).
Baron was one of the wealthy benefactors who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to cover up the affair, though by the time of this meeting in late 2007, much of the story was in the process of being revealed. When she got to the meeting Palmieri said Elizabeth Edwards was very upset because Baron and Blue (ph) had been in contact with Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter. Palmieri said she learned that Lisa Blue (ph) had taken Hunter on a shopping trip on the West Coast.
Palmieri testified, quote, "Edwards thought they were proactively inserting Rielle into the situation and that made them look more guilty." Palmieri said Baron and Blue (ph) tried to explain that they were trying to help Edwards keep his friends close and his enemies closer. Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan --
KIERAN SHANAHAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: And her good friends are telling her look, Miss Hunter is a loose cannon. She may go to the press therefore we're keeping her out of the way.
JOHNS: In the morning Wendy Button, a former speechwriter for Edwards who helped Edwards draft a statement admitting paternity of Rielle Hunter's child was cross examined by Edwards' lawyer Abby Lowell (ph). Button (ph) had testified that Edwards told her he knew Baron had been helping out with Quinn, the child, but Lowell (ph) got her to admit that Baron may have only done so after the child was born nearly one month to the day after Edwards had pulled out of the presidential race.
JOHNS: And it is looking less and less now like Rielle Hunter will actually testify, at least for the prosecution. The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case tomorrow. And Rielle Hunter is not expected to testify then. No word on whether she will be called to the stand by the defense -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We will check back with you tomorrow, Joe. Thank you. Let's check in with Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the question this hour, is President Obama simply using gay marriage for political gain?
J.B. in Tennessee writes, "yes, the president is using his endorsement of gay marriage as a campaign strategy since the North Carolina vote yesterday. All week, the president has been evolving on this. So we are to believe that yesterday he was evolving and today he suddenly has evolved. Seriously, his deceptive political nonsense is insulting to our intelligence."
Alberto writes, "to some, civil rights issues will always seem less important than. To uncaring majorities, the claims of minorities seem just so much belly aching. It all depends where you are standing. But to be belittled, bullied and disenfranchised is important to an American minority and if politics have to be pulled in, so be it."
Linda writes, "of course he is. I think we are all aware this will be a state law, state by state as it should be. I support gay marriage. Obama has not been a good president and him coming out in support of gay marriage doesn't change that fact."
Dave writes, "I don't see how it can be for political gain since he likely already has a majority of the lesbian and gay votes locked up. Can't imagine too many of them voting for a Republican."
Guy in Texas writes, "this should take flip-flopping out of the election discussion. Romney's response to this was appropriate. This is merely a diversion, which takes away from what the people are most interested in, jobs."
Pete writes, "are you serious? Name one thing that he doesn't do for political gain. Just one."
And M.J. writes, "maybe but so what. He is doing the right thing. I don't care if it is for the wrong reason." If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you Jack. She is known as the hotdog hooker, but it is not just hotdogs that she claims to be selling.
BLITZER: The so-called hotdog hooker is back and some say she is selling a lot more than just hotdogs. CNN's Jeanne Moos has a closer look at her big comeback.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She is back in action selling hotdogs hoping to hook customers with the slogan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get a little wiggle with your wiener.
MOOS: Cathy Scalia has wiggled her way to fame known by the name the hotdog hooker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Arrested for selling sex acts along with her wieners --
CATHERINA SCALIA, STRIPPING HOT DOG VENDOR: I plead guilty to stripper, a stripper, not prostitution.
MOOS: Ever since she wiggled her way out of a Long Island jail Tuesday --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
MOOS: She's been making the press blush explaining the distinctions.
SCALIA: Prostitution is sex, sexual acts (EXPLETIVE DELETED). That's prostitution.
MOOS: She had actually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor prostitution after an undercover cop bought hot dogs from her stand, took a business card offering top less dances and ended up getting a lap dance at her home. She denies police accusations that she offered more. Now, it is the press being propositioned.
SCALIA: All right, who wants to get a lap dance? I will show you what it looks like. Come to the hotdog truck tomorrow. I will have a bikini top on.
MOOS: Though the rain put a damper on her fashion plans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you just show us really quickly her --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she has it on -- she does have it on. We don't want -- this is live TV --
MOOS: As if that would stop her.
SCALIA: Did you see me in the news?
MOOS: There was a lot to see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
MOOS (on camera): She wasn't always so brazen. Take, for instance, the last time she was arrested.
(voice-over): Instead of bouncing around, she hung her head to hide after being charged with prostitution out of a hotdog truck eight years ago. But now, the country's most famous hotdog vendor has knocked even a tanning mom out of the limelight. One poll made readers choose. They went for the hotdog lady.
SCALIA: I like doing the hotdogs. You know I like conversating with people.
MOOS: But all the conversating about her is bound to get back to her four teenage boys in their grandmother's custody.
SCALIA: To my boys, your mother is a stripper. You are going to have to live with that until the day you die.
MOOS: And what about the effect on wieners?
(on camera): Are you worried that the hotdog stripper is giving hotdogs a bad name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hotdogs really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You hear about the hotdog hooker?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
MOOS (voice-over): I will have a hotdog with mustard, hold the cleavage.
Jeanne Moos, CNN --
SCALIA: That's sexy and I know it.
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: We had hoped to bring you my interview today with the top foreign ministry official in Cuba reacting to Alan Gross, the American held prisoner in Cuba right now. She is reacting to what the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN about Alan Gross, about U.S./Cuban relations. Unfortunately because of the breaking news today on President Obama's decision on same-sex marriage, we were not able to bring you the interview. We will have that tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.