Jan 6, 2021

Axios AM

🍑 Happy Wednesday. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,113 words ... 4 minutes.

Inauguration Day is two weeks from today.

  • President George W. Bush plans to attend, his spokesman Freddy Ford tweeted: "[W]itnessing the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old."
1 big thing: The Trump implosion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Republicans, who enabled President Trump with their silence and compliance, are privately furious with him for blowing their Senate majority.

  • Democrat Raphael Warnock was declared victor over Sen. Kelly Loeffler in one of the twin Georgia runoffs at 2 a.m., and will become the Southern state's first Black senator.
  • Democrat Jon Ossoff is on track to beat Sen. David Perdue in the other runoff, with most of the outstanding votes in Democratic strongholds.

That second victory would mean Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader, taking power from Mitch McConnell.

  • In a 50-50 Senate, Vice President-elect Harris would break ties.

Why it matters: It's a fitting and predictable end to Trump’s reign.

  • The party has now lost the House, Senate and White House on his watch.
  • He leaves Democrats in full control of Washington's agenda, with only the Supreme Court's conservative majority as a counterweight.
  • As a curtain call for Trumpism, approximately a dozen senators and 100+ House Republicans today will publicly support an idea that many of them think is idiotic and doomed to fail, as they protest congressional certification of President-elect Biden's victory.
Raphael Warnock speaks on YouTube as results come in. Photo: Warnock for Georgia via Reuters

What Senate control means for Dems and Joe Biden:

  • They can try to do big spending and tax hikes via budget reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.
  • They can jam through nominees and judicial picks if they stay united.
  • They control what comes to the floor and when.

Between the lines: It'd be tough to go big with a 50-50 Senate, so don't assume a substantial shift. But Democratic control would be a massive blow to Republican hopes of blocking anything they truly loathe.

👀 What we're watching: Biden sources tell me he now can go more progressive on remaining Cabinet picks, notably attorney general and secretary of Labor.

  • Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who was fired by Trump, could now go back on the table to be Biden's attorney general.

A big winner: Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her 2018 race for Georgia governor, galvanized Black voters and became the face of yesterday's massive Democratic turnout.

The big loser: Top Republicans blame Trump for sabotaging what should have been two easy wins — turning off suburban voters with his chaos and craziness, and sowing distrust of the Peach State election machinery with base voters.

Go deeper: Why AP declared Warnock the winner.

2. Inside the West Wing: Trump didn't want to go back to Georgia

Trump supporters gather in the rain last night. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

With his anger rising at Georgia officials, President Trump resisted going back to the Peach State after his first runoff rally on Dec. 5, Jonathan Swan reports.

  • He told advisers he didn't think he needed to go back.
  • Both candidates, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, put in a huge behind-the-scenes effort to get him to go back. He plugged them during his Monday rally, but also ranted about the state's Republican officials and election machinery.

Between the lines: Trump was fixated on his own grievances and on increasingly untethered scenarios for how he might overturn the election.

  • It took great effort to get him to focus on any other subject or to convince him that anything beyond his own election factored into his self-interest.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham warned him that his "legacy" was on the line and that Democrats would undo all of his accomplishments, including tax cuts.
3. Axios/SurveyMonkey poll: Election fight leaves lasting damage
Data: Axios/SurveyMonkey survey. Chart: Axios Visuals

A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll (2,516 U.S. adults, conducted Monday and Tuesday, with a ±3.0 point margin of error) shows how President-elect Biden has been damaged by two months of baseless allegations, Margaret Talev writes:

  • 58% of Americans accept his win as legitimate, while more than one in four don't.
  • There's a massive partisan split: 96% of Democrats and 57% of independents say they accept Biden's win. 62% of Republicans say they don't.

Share this story.

4. Coming arms race in business travel

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The decline of business travel could cost millions of jobs, shutter more small businesses and make your next vacation more expensive, Erica Pandey writes in our Axios @Work newsletter.

  • Less choice: Airlines could reduce the number of domestic and international routes.
  • Higher fares: With fewer business travelers bringing in revenue, ticket prices could go up for everyone else.

Bright spots: Certain types of business travel, like flying in for meetings with colleagues, are expected to fall away. But those that drive sales or help secure new clients are likely to resume in the long run.

  • Steve Black, co-founder of Topia, an H.R. tech company, tells Axios' Joann Muller that he expects an "arms race" in the return to travel for sales teams: "The first time my competitor is in the room pitching, I’m getting on a plane. I guarantee you."

Sign up for Erica Pandey's weekly newsletter, Axios @Work.

5. Why the vaccine rollout is behind schedule

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Although the vaccination effort has sped up over the last few days, only 5 million Americans have received their first dose of a vaccine — or 1.5% of the population, Caitlin Owens writes in Axios Vitals.

  • That means only about 30% of the 17 million distributed vaccines have been administered.

States have been warning for months that they don’t have the resources to pull off the ideal vaccination effort.

  • Initial doses went mostly to frontline health care workers, meaning that administration of the shots was largely the responsibility of the same hospitals that are overwhelmed by a flood of coronavirus patients.

Keep reading.

6. Data du jour: U.S. vaccinations
Expand chart
Data: CDC. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
7. Guide to today's Biden vs. GOP showdown

The first objection is expected early in the alphabetical roll call — Arizona — when Congress meets in a joint session at 1 p.m. ET to certify electoral votes.

  • At that point, the House and Senate will meet separately.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said on a conference call with Senate Republicans that the certification will be "the most consequential I have ever cast," will give a major speech to the chamber, arguing passionately against shenanigans that will change nothing.

Here's our guide to watching the debate — by Alayna Treene and Stef Kight, with input from legislative aides, historians and Axios' Ursula Perano:

  • Vice President Pence will be presiding officer.
  • Pages will bring in ceremonial mahogany boxes full of the votes from the states, which are placed at the front of the chamber. Pence will then present the certificates of the electoral votes in alphabetical order.
  • Pence will start with Alabama and end with Wyoming, stating that the certificate from each state "seems to be regular in form and authentic."

Any lawmaker may rise and object.

  • The debates (up to two hours per state) are expected to continue into evening, and could spill into Thursday.

Share this story.

8. Mass arrests chill Hong Kong democracy

Pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong hold press conference after mass arrests this morning. Photo: Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

About 1,000 Hong Kong police were deployed in dawn raids that resulted in the arrests of 53 pro-democracy activists and politicians, accused of seeking to "overthrow" the government by organizing unofficial primary elections this summer, Reuters reports.

  • Why it matters: It's the largest and most chilling crackdown since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law in June.

Incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: "The sweeping arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators are an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights. The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy."

9. 📺 11 of 2020's top 15 shows were NFL
Data: Nielsen. Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Helmet tip: Axios Sports

10. 🏈 1 for the road: Heisman win for Alabama
DeVonta Smith in New York yesterday. Photo: Kent Gidley/Heisman Trophy Trust via Getty Images

"For nearly three decades, wide receivers failed to win the Heisman Trophy. That ended [last] night when Alabama senior DeVonta Smith was presented the award during a virtual ceremony." ESPN

📬 Thanks for starting your day with us. Please invite your friends to sign up for Axios AM/PM.