CNN Chief National Correspondent
This is a week that, in more ways than one, will bring lessons of how much has changed since President Obama's historic election victory one year ago.
In Washington, key tests remain for Democratic health care plans in the House and Senate. This week will also give us a better sense of just how detailed Republicans are willing to be in offering an alternative plan.
From the government and Wall Street, fresh earnings and other data will test this cautiously optimistic assessment from Vice President Biden: "I'm confident we have hit bottom."
And Election Day 2009 will be compared with Election Day 2008. Democrats have had the upper hand in New Jersey and Virginia in recent years. In gubernatorial and other elections, Republicans see a chance to make a statement about their party and perhaps about the president's standing as well.
Tonight an election race that could signal big changes in the Republican party – moving it farther to the right. We'll also look at what the outcome at the ballot boxes tomorrow could mean for Pres. Obama. Plus, actor Nicolas Cage's money mess and how women can battle the boys club at the office.
Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ
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Don't forget. Tomorrow is election day. Cast your votes. There’s plenty of buzz, but not quite as much as the 2008 presidential election. Though, here is one race of several we're following closely for you on Tuesday that could have an impact nationwide on politics:
A wild political move was made over the weekend in New York's 23rd Congressional District race. GOP candidate Dierdre Scozzafava suspended her campaign on Sunday and announced she's endorsing the Democrat in the race – not the Conservative Party candidate that's got the backing of fellow Republicans.
The move has led some to question whether moderate Republicans have a bleak future.
The race has attracted the attention of some big name politicians: Vice President Joe Biden, former Alaska president Sarah Palin and many others.
What do you think of the political battle? Sound off below.
We'll have the raw politics and whether this all could spell trouble for GOP moderates nationwide.
Tonight we're also looking at the gender gap at the office. Women now make up half of the U.S. workforce, yet still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man takes home. We'll talk it over with personal finance expert Suze Orman, former White House Press Secretary and author of "Why Women Should Rule the World", Dee Dee Myers, and Dr. Katrina Firlik, author of "Another Day in the Frontal Lobe" and world champion poker player Maria Ho.
Also on our radar is the money trouble for actor Nicolas Cage. He's one of Hollywood's highest paid actors, yet he owes $6.3 million dollars in back taxes. Cage has filed a lawsuit claiming his business manager sent him down a path of "financial ruin."
Join us for these stories and much more starting at 10 p.m ET.
Program Note: Randi Kaye reports on the financial demise of Academy Award winning actor Nicolas Cage. Watch her full report tonight on AC360° at 10 P.M.
Actor Nicolas Cage filed suit early last month in California claiming that his former business manager has swindled millions of dollars from him since 2001. Cage alleges that Samuel Levin has "lined his pockets with several millions of dollars in business management fees while sending Cage down a path toward financial ruin."
The Academy Award winner owes more than $6 million in back taxes and his properties in California, Las Vegas and New Orleans have been foreclosed and are designated for auction later this month. Cage claims that he is unsure of the full amount Levin has stolen but believes the amount is in excess of 20 million dollars.
Ready for today's Beat 360°? Everyday we post a picture – and you provide the caption and our staff will join in too. Tune in tonight at 10pm to see if you are our favorite! Here is the 'Beat 360°' pic:
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dressed as Darth Vader in the east room greets parents, trick-or-treaters and local school children at the White House. (Getty Images)
Have fun with it. We're looking forward to your captions! Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.
UPDATE BEAT 360º WINNERS
"Dick Cheney, I am your father."
Ying Taur, New York City
"Press Secretary Robert Gibbs woke up and finally realized that this job really does change you."
CNN Financial News Producer
CIT Group, one of the nation's leading funders of small and medium-sized businesses, filed for the fifth-largest bankruptcy by assets in U.S. history over the weekend as part of a reorganization plan that has the support of a majority of its debt holders.
Not to be confused with Citigroup, CIT is seeking quick approval of the prepackaged plan in bankruptcy court and said none of its operating subsidiaries would be affected by the filing, allowing them to continue operations.
In the bankruptcy filing, CIT said it had $71 billion in assets and $64.9 billion in liabilities. Only Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, WorldCom and General Motors had more in assets when they filed for protection.
CIT's position in the business world is crucial: it’s a top lender to women and minorities and it says it is the leading provider of “factoring,” a key element in the day-to-day financing of the retail industry. It’s also the nation's third-largest lessor of rail cars and the world's third-largest lessor of aircraft.
One company that did not seek bankruptcy protection this year or take any government bailout money was Ford Motor.
And today, Ford reported a surprise profit of just under $1 billion for the third quarter - helped by a bump in sales from the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program, a reduced cost structure and problems at its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.
Ford said cost cutting during the past year and an improved outlook for sales leads the company to believe it will be "solidly profitable" in 2011 - the most bullish outlook Ford has offered investors since it started losing money in 2005.
Ford, along with the rest of the auto industry, reports sales figures for October tomorrow. And the post-clunkers hangover is expected to continue.
It’s also a very busy day on the housing and economic fronts.
The number of signed sales contracts to buy homes rose for the eighth straight month in September.
The National Association of Realtors said its September Pending Home Sales Index spiked 6.1% to the highest level since December 2006 as people rushed to take advantage of an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers.
It's estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 additional sales will have been made because of that incentive. The credit lapses at the end of this month, and the housing industry is bracing for a major turndown in sales if Congress fails to pass some kind of extension.
Meanwhile, a key index of manufacturing activity jumped in October, reaching its highest level in three and a-half years.
The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose to a reading of 55.7 in October from 52.6 the month before. It was the highest reading since April 2006 when the index registered 56.
The monthly report is a national survey of ISM members, who are purchasing managers in the manufacturing field. Readings above 50 indicate growth, while levels below 50 signal contraction. Readings below 41.2 are associated with a recession in the broader economy.
The index first showed growth back in August after 18 months of contraction. It dipped slightly in September from the previous month, but has held above the level indicating growth for three months in a row.
And construction spending also rose in September as the increase in housing starts over the last few months has finally shown up in the residential construction numbers.
Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN
Pew Research Center
Women now make up almost half of the U.S. labor force, up from 38% in 1970. This nearly forty-year trend has been fueled by a broad public consensus about the changing role of women in society. A solid majority of Americans (75%) reject the idea that women should return to their traditional roles in society, and most believe that both husband and wife should contribute to the family income.
But in spite of these long-term changes in behaviors and attitudes, many women remain conflicted about the competing roles they play at work and at home. Working mothers in particular are ambivalent about whether full-time work is the best thing for them or their children; they feel the tug of family much more acutely than do working fathers. As a result, most working mothers find themselves in a situation that they say is less than ideal.
CNN Deputy Political Director
With one day to go until Election day, a new poll suggests New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's in a statistical tie with his Republican challenger, Chris Christie.
According to a Quinnipiac University survey released Monday morning, 42 percent of likely New Jersey voters back Christie, the former federal prosecutor in the Garden State, with 40 percent supporting Corzine, the Democratic incumbent fighting for a second term, and 12 percent backing Independent candidate Chris Daggett. Six percent remain undecided.
Christie's two point advantage is well within the poll's sampling error. A Quinnpiac University survey released Wednesday indicated that Corzine held a 5 point lead, just within in the poll's sampling error. Christie was up 2 points over Corzine in a Fairleigh Dickenson University survey released Friday. Most surveys in New Jersey over the past seven weeks have suggested that Corzine and Christie were deadlocked, with Daggett in the low double digits.
David E. Sanger
The New York Times
With the White House’s reluctant embrace on Sunday of Hamid Karzai as the winner of Afghanistan’s suddenly moot presidential runoff, President Obama now faces a new complication: enabling a badly tarnished partner to regain enough legitimacy to help the United States find the way out of an eight-year-old war.
It will not be easy. As the evidence mounted in late summer that Mr. Karzai’s forces had sought to win re-election through widespread fraud to defeat his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, administration officials made no secret of their disgust. How do you consider sending tens of thousands of additional American troops, they asked in meetings in the White House, to prop up an Afghan government regarded as illegitimate by many of its own people?
The answer was supposed to be a runoff election. Now, administration officials argue that Mr. Karzai will have to regain that legitimacy by changing the way he governs, at a moment when he is politically weaker than at any time since 2001.
“We’re going to know in the next three to six months whether he’s doing anything differently — whether he can seriously address the corruption, whether he can raise an army that ultimately can take over from us and that doesn’t lose troops as fast as we train them,” one of Mr. Obama’s senior aides said. He insisted on anonymity because of the confidentiality surrounding the Obama administration’s own debate on a new strategy, and the request by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the American military commander in Afghanistan, for upward of 44,000 more troops.