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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's not just the presidential election that matters big time.

What it means: The outcome in tonight's Georgia runoff elections will decide the fate of Biden's presidency, from whether he gets his Cabinet nominees to whether progressives get their tax hikes and public spending.

With control over the Senate majority and Washington political agenda at stake, the candidates searched for their winning message.

The Republicans didn't promise confetti and unicorns; they warned — literally — of danger on the horizon.

  • Kelly Loeffler ran TV ads branding Warnock "dangerous" and "radical."
  • In an op-ed, David Perdue called Warnock "a radical extremist" and Ossoff "his far-left sidekick."

The cold calculus: If Democrats win both races, they gain a 50-50 split, and future Vice President Kamala Harris casts any tie-breaking votes.

  • That added vote means the Democrats officially have the majority, and Sen. Chuck Schumer is the chamber's de facto majority leader.
  • Sen. Mitch McConnell would stay on as minority leader.
  • The two are likely to work out a power-sharing agreement, with an equal number of members from each party on Senate committees.

Key players to watch: Centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are seen as the bulwarks within the Democratic Party against far-left legislation.

  • Members of the "mod squad" — including Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — who shepherded the bipartisan coronavirus relief agreement in the final months of 2020 are also seen as central to any cross-party deal.
  • Some progressive members on the Hill tell Axios' Alexi McCammond they’re waiting to push Biden on his eventual COVID-relief package, including proposals like recurring payments to Americans, until they know if they can get the measure through the Senate.

But, but, but: If Republicans win just one race — and Perdue is the bettors' choice — Democrats' dreams go up in smoke. Republicans hold court with at least a 51-49 vote margin.

  • Cabinet nominees like Merrick Garland — who has been held back as a potential attorney general — are unlikely to move forward.
  • Plans to force tax hikes and spending increases fizzle because Democrats can't use a 50-vote bloc to force them through the budget reconciliation process.

Be smart: The likely area of common ground no matter the outcome is infrastructure spending, as Axios reported last month. But even there, the amount of money that puts shovels in the ground will depend on who wins in Georgia.

Podcast alert: Listen as Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells Axios' Dan Primack and his Re:Cap podcast she expects more Republicans to come out in favor of certifying.

Go deeper

Schumer plans to pick Gary Peters to run DSCC

Sen. Gary Peters. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is poised to name Sen. Gary Peters to head their party's Senate fundraising arm for the pivotal midterm elections, a move he hopes will allow him to retain his title, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Peters will be tasked with raising the enormous amounts of money Democrats will need to preserve their razor-thin majority. The appointment is something of a surprise, given the Michigander is viewed as a low-key Midwesterner.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.