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Raphael Warnock defeats Kelly Loeffler in Georgia Senate runoffs

Democrat Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia runoffs for the U.S. Senate, per AP.

Why it matters: The high-dollar win brings Democrats one step closer to controlling the Senate. Warnock's race was run in tandem with Democrat Jon Ossoff's bid against former Sen. David Perdue. Both Ossoff and Warnock need to win in order for Democrats to gain a potent 50-50 split in the Senate.

  • In that event, the vice president determines which party will hold the majority. In this case, Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote after Jan. 20.
  • Warnock, an ordained minister who serves as senior pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, will join Cory Booker as the only two Black Democratic senators after Inauguration Day.

What they're saying: In a video posted early Wednesday, Warnock said: "We were told we couldn't win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side anything is possible."

  • In her speech moments before Warnock's, Loeffler refused to concede and insisted she was on a "path to victory."

Between the lines: Loeffler, an incumbent appointed to the seat in 2019, faced accusations of insider trading earlier this year after selling off massive amounts of stock following briefings on the coronavirus.

  • Republicans also feared that President Trump's spread of misinformation around the election and his bashing of Georgia's Republican officials could dampen turnout.
  • Trump, who lost Georgia by over 11,000 votes, falsely claimed the state's elections were rigged against him and has pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to overturn the results.

Yes, but: Trump still turned out to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue on Monday in Dalton, Ga.

  • "These Senate seats are truly the last line of defense. It's really fight for our country, not a fight for Trump," the president said, alluding to his hopes for the Senate to reject the Electoral College results.

President-elect Biden rallied for Democrats in Atlanta on Monday, focusing on the potential for more economic stimulus if Warnock and Ossoff were to win.

  • "Two-thousand-dollar checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now," Biden said.

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Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

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Why it matters: Via Axios' Alayna Treene, the address is very different from the Trump we've seen in his final weeks as president — one who has been refusing to accept his loss, who peddled conspiracy theories that fueled the attack on the Capitol, and who is boycotting his successor's inauguration. 

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Europeans have high hopes for Joe Biden

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration will be greeted with enthusiasm in Europe, with three new polls making clear that most Europeans can't wait to bid Donald Trump adieu.

The big picture: Europeans generally expect brighter days ahead under Biden, according to the polls, but his election has not fully assuaged doubts about U.S. democracy and global leadership.

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U.S. surpasses 400,000 coronavirus deaths on Trump's final full day in office

Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Over 400,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

Why it matters: It only took a little over a month for the U.S. to reach this mass casualty after 300,000 COVID deaths were reported last month. That's over 100,000 fatalities in 36 days.

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Special report: How U.S. policy toward China transformed under Trump

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

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