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The Situation: Tuesday, March 7

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 4 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET weekdays.

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Dana Reeve, seen at a 2004 event, revealed that she had lung cancer in August. She was a nonsmoker.

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Posted: 5:25 p.m. ET
From The Situation Online Producers

Women & lung cancer: startling stats

Today in the Situation Room, in the wake of Dana Reeve's tragic death, the Internet team explores the startling connection between women and lung cancer. Surprisingly, 20 percent of women diagnosed with lung cancer are non-smokers. After tobacco use, an odorless, radioactive gas called "radon"external link is the second-leading cause of lung cancer.

What is radon, and how can you avoid it? At the Environmental Protection Agency'sexternal link comprehensive radon Web site, you'll find detailed instructions on "radon-proofing (PDF)"external link your home, plus maps indicating whether potential radon levels near your homeexternal link are higher than average.

You can find more background on the risks of lung cancer at the American Lung Associationexternal link, the American Cancer Society (PDF)external link and the National Cancer Instituteexternal link, as well as on online communities devoted to discussing the subject, such as The Cancer Forumsexternal link or the Cancer Blogexternal link.

People battling cancer also get creative on the Internet as a way to cope. Dr. Phil Bermanexternal link - a radiologist - is not only blogging his personal battle with lung cancer, but he is also inviting others to join a network of survivorsexternal link with stories to share. Then there's Brianexternal link, who chronicled his mother Barbara's story via a comic strip at Mom's Cancerexternal link. Barbara passed away in October 2005, but her story lives online at Mom's Recoveryexternal link.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 9:55 a.m. ET
From Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit

DeLay faces voters; McCain receives 'Lottsa' love

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) faces voters today for the first time since an indictment and ties to a disgraced lobbyist forced him to step down from his powerful post. But the viability of DeLay's political future won't be judged on whether he wins the primary, rather by how wide a margin.

DeLay, who faced no primary opposition in 2004, will square off against three other Republicans, most notably attorney Tom Campbell. Campbell, a former lawyer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been endorsed by the Houston Chronicle.

But DeLay is looking beyond today's vote and ahead to November when he will likely face former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) in the general election. The 11-term incumbent has spent no money on television advertising, and recently sent out targeted political mailings to GOP voters urging them to vote early. The mailings criticized Lampson, but made no mention of his primary opponents.

While DeLay has not paid for television advertising, a likeminded organization, The Free Enterprise Committee, has shelled out about $71,000 to run commercials supportive of DeLay, according to TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending. Campbell, who has run some commercials, but the buys have been too small to register, said Evan Tracey, TNSMI/CMAG's chief operating officer.

Perhaps the most telling sign that DeLay is more focused on November is the fact that he will only spend part of his day in Texas, before heading back to Washington to vote and attend a fundraiser tonight hosted by two former GOP House colleagues-turned-K Street powerbrokers Bill Paxon and Susan Molinari. Still, DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty maintains they are focused on winning today and note there are signs that some Democrats are turning out to vote against DeLay in the GOP primary.

"In areas where voter turnout is low, a little bit of crossover can make a big difference, which is why we're pushing Republicans to come out in full force to vote in the primary," Flaherty tells the Grind. "We've been running our early voting numbers and we see some of that happening."

"The only way to keep them from hijacking our primary and picking and choosing Republican candidates is to drown out these Democrat votes," she added.

Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Oklahoma) suggested that if DeLay is able to capture 55 percent of the primary vote -- the same percentage he won re-election with in 2004 -- it would be "a decisive win" for him. And as for the 45 percent who do not vote for him today, Watts said he expects a majority of them to back DeLay in November.

"Eighty five to 90 percent of that opposition vote I think probably comes to Tom in the fall," Watts said. "They might sit out but they won't go to Nick."

In other Texas primary news, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) is challenging the man who beat him in 2004, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D). The campaign has turned negative and it has taken on a national flavor with Democrats upset with Cuellar's close relationship to Republicans pumping money into Rodriguez's war chest. TNSMI/CMAG's Tracey says that as of March 1, the two campaigns have spent about $359,000 on television advertising, with Rodriguez accounting for $209,000 of this total. And two Texas Republicans are involved in a bloody primary to take on Rep. Chet Edwards (D) in November. Iraq War vet Van Taylor has spent about $150,000 on television commercials primarily touting his military service, while Tucker Anderson, a former aide to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), has spent about one-tenth of that total on television advertising.

Four days before the Southern Republican Leadership Conference -- the first cattle call for potential 2008 candidates -- Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) appears to have snagged the endorsement of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi). Lott tells the Grind that when he takes the stage in Memphis on Saturday, his remarks will focus on "the Republican Party in the South and about my friend John McCain."

"We should be looking for leadership and character," Lott said he will tell attendees as they consider who to support for the GOP nomination in 2008.

In typical Lott-speak, the Mississippi Republican said he wouldn't characterize the speech, "as an endorsement necessarily," but he noted that McCain will accompany him to a Mississippi delegation reception Friday night and then tour areas of the Mississippi Gulf Coast destroyed by Hurricane Katrina on Saturday afternoon. Lott acknowledged that the two men "fought like cats and dogs" in the past, but added that McCain has deep Mississippi roots and a Lott-McCain political alliance goes back generations.

"The McCain Farm was right down the road from the Watson Farm, my mother's farm," said Lott, adding that their uncles were political allies. Should McCain run for president, Lott might prove to be a key Southern ally for the Arizona Senator.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are planning to focus their weekly closed-door meeting on mapping out strategy on Iraq, sources tell CNN's ED Henry. The move comes as some people suggest that Iraq is teetering on the brink of civil war -- and at a time when Democrats are trying to pivot off of the Dubai Port controversy to burnish their national security credentials by alleging that a series of White House policy decisions have made America less safe. This meeting comes right before the Senate Intelligence Committee convenes at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss how to proceed with the NSA domestic spying controversy. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) leads a Congressional delegation to New York for a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to talk about their recent trip to Darfur. Pelosi takes questions at 12:50 p.m. ET at U.N. Headquarters.

At the White House, President Bush makes 10:45 a.m. ET remarks on Women's History Month and then holds a 12:35 p.m. ET meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister. He leaves Washington at 2:05 p.m. ET and heads to Texas to cast his vote at the Crawford Fire Station at 6:10 p.m. ET.

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 9:55 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

DEM '06 MESSAGE: "AT LEAST WE'RE NOT THEM": After years of disunity, disorder and disappointment, Democrats finally have something going for them: Republicans. The Democrats, who languished in public-opinion polls even as President George W. Bush's approval ratings plunged, now say their prospects are on the rise: In the most recent Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, Americans by a margin of 46 percent to 37 percent said they plan to vote Democratic for Congress this year. That has led to a growing belief among party leaders that they may take back control of the House of Representatives and gain seats in the Senate. "We are going to do well if for no other reason than we are not them," Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana said. "A majority of Americans are clearly not happy with the direction of the country, and they want change." Bloomberg: Bush Perceived Blunders on Iraq, Katrina Buoy Democrats in 2006external link

BUT SERIOUSLY, THE MANIFESTO IS COMING WITHIN "A MATTER OF WEEKS": Democratic leaders had set a goal of issuing their legislative manifesto by November 2005 to give voters a full year to digest their proposals. But some Democrats protested that the release date was too early, so they put it off until January. The new date slipped twice again, and now House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) says the document will be unveiled in "a matter of weeks." Some Democrats fear that the hesitant handling is symbolic of larger problems facing the party in trying to seize control of the House and Senate after more than a decade of almost unbroken minority status. Lawmakers and strategists have complained about erratic or uncertain leadership and repeated delays in resolving important issues. Washington Post: Democrats Struggle To Seize Opportunityexternal link

SD'S ROUNDS SIGNS ABORTION BAN: Gov. Mike Rounds signed a bill Monday making nearly all abortions illegal and putting South Dakota at the top of a short list of states challenging the 30-year-old law of the land. The bill flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and is almost certain to be challenged in what could be a long and expensive federal lawsuit or a direct referendum at the polls. The governor also signed a bill to create a state fund to catch private donations from people and groups that want to contribute to the legal defense of the proposed new South Dakota law. Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Governor signs abortion banexternal link

SCOTUS REJECTS CAMPUS RECRUITING BAN: The Supreme Court yesterday ruled against universities that had prohibited military recruiters on campus. The justices unanimously upheld a 1996 federal law that permits the government to withhold funds from universities that deny military recruiters the same access to students that is allowed other potential employers. "Recruiters are, by definition, outsiders who come onto campus for the limited purpose of trying to hire students," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court in his third opinion since being confirmed six months ago. Several universities had banned military recruiters to protest the Pentagon's policy against open homosexuality in the armed forces. Washington Times: Military ban on campus rejectedexternal link

8,000 DESERTERS: At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Since fall 2003, 4,387 Army soldiers, 3,454 Navy sailors and 82 Air Force personnel have deserted. The Marine Corps does not track the number of desertions each year but listed 1,455 Marines in desertion status last September, the end of fiscal 2005, says Capt. Jay Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman... Some lawyers who represent deserters say the war in Iraq is driving more soldiers to question their service and that the Pentagon is cracking down on deserters. USA Today: 8,000 desert during Iraq warexternal link

CONSERVATIVES WILL PROPOSE SLIMMER BUDGET: With Congress heading into a politically perilous budget season, influential House conservatives plan this week to propose an austere alternative spending plan that would pare more than $650 billion over five years, balance the budget and drastically shrink three cabinet agencies. The legislation, part of a push by some Republicans to re-establish themselves as champions of fiscal restraint, was taking shape as President Bush struck a similar theme on Monday by asking Congress to grant him line-item veto power to eliminate federal spending that he might judge wasteful. New York Times: House Conservatives Prepare Austere Alternative Budgetexternal link

PRIMARY DAY IN TX; DeLAY STAYING IN DC: Rep. Tom DeLay, whose association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff has left him politically vulnerable, is spending Texas' primary night Tuesday at a fundraiser hosted by two Washington lobbyists. DeLay faces three opponents in the Republican primary. For the first time in the 22 years he's held office, he is up against a serious challenge after being forced out of his job as House majority leader amid corruption and campaign finance scandals. The fundraiser is being held by lobbyists Bill Paxon and Susan Molinari, both former members of Congress from New York. The event will raise money for DeLay's re-election campaign. DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said DeLay would be in Washington for votes and has other events on his schedule including the fundraiser. She said he was unavailable for an interview. Paxon said if DeLay were to go to Texas for the primary, he would be criticized for leaving Washington while Congress was in session. AP via Yahoo! News: DeLay, Lobbyists Host Election Night Eventexternal link

REP. THOMAS RETIRING: Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), the irascible House Ways and Means Committee chairman who helped shepherd through President Bush's biggest domestic policy initiatives, announced yesterday that he will retire at the end of the year. House Republican term limits would have forced Thomas, 64, to give up his perch on the powerful committee before the next Congress, a prospect that pushed the 14-term lawmaker toward his decision. His is the highest-profile in a string of retirement announcements that brings the total of seats being vacated to 26, 16 of them by Republicans. Washington Post: Ways and Means Chairman to Step Downexternal link

CANDIDATES MUST FILE BY FRIDAY: The approaching end of the Thomas era in the U.S. House of Representatives demands that those questions be answered -- and quickly. The filing deadline is Friday. Incumbents' aspirations to higher office -- aspirations given flight by Thomas' decision not to run again -- will almost certainly create additional vacancies at the state-government level, and possibly the county and city levels as well... Kevin McCarthy, the Assembly Republican leader and longtime Thomas protégé, is a virtual certainty to seek higher office. Write down his name as a candidate for Thomas' seat in Congress, and write it in indelible ink. He's expected to formally announce his intentions today. Beyond that, it's guesswork of varying degrees. Even some of the potential candidates aren't sure. Bakersfield Californian: With Thomas out, get ready for political shuffleexternal link

PATAKI LEAVES HOSPITAL: Two surgeries, two hospitals and more than two weeks later, Gov. Pataki finally went home yesterday. "It's great to feel the fresh air and the sunshine," a pale and thin-looking governor said as he stepped out of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center with his wife, Libby, by his side. "I'm not 100%, but I'm a lot better than I was a few days ago," he said. His surgeon, Dr. Spencer Amory, predicted that it will take the governor six more weeks before he's fully recovered after suffering complications from an emergency appendectomy. New York Daily News: Finally, Pataki leaves hospitalexternal link

BUSH "WAR CRIMES" MOCK TRIAL CONCLUDES TODAY: The war crimes "trial" of President Bush in a Parsippany High School classroom is expected to conclude today with additional defense testimony from the student playing Bush, but controversy over the project is continuing. "It clearly crossed a line," school board member Frank Calabria said Monday of the mock tribunal, in which Bush is charged with "crimes against civilian populations" and "inhumane treatment of prisoners." Calabria said he will be asking some questions --"What occurred, how did it happen, why did it happen and exactly what are the ramifications"--when the board meets on Thursday. "We're polarizing people in an area that we shouldn't be," said Calabria, who is running for re-election in April. Mayor Michael Luther also criticized the trial on Monday, saying it "breeds disrespect to accuse the commander-in-chief of being a war criminal." Daily Record (Parsippany, NJ): Parsippany officials say H.S. mock trial of Bush crossed lineexternal link

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