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Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday endorsed Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III in his bid to unseat the state's incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, giving Kennedy a crucial boost in a tight Democratic primary race.

Why it matters: Her move comes as many on the left have called for fresher, younger faces to represent party leadership. The 74-year-old Markey is backed by progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and co-authored the Green New Deal.

  • Pelosi’s endorsement was a surprise to many in Washington, given she served 25 years with Markey in the House and the two have long been supportive of each other.

What she's saying: "Never before have the times demanded we elect courageous leaders as today, and that is why I am proud to endorse Joe Kennedy for Senate," Pelosi said in a video announcing her endorsement.

  • "Joe Kennedy represents this party’s future. He will help lead Democrats forward on the defining battles of our time," Pelosi added in a news release from Kennedy's campaign, per the Boston Globe.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Pelosi cited her family's close ties with the Kennedys, including former President John F. Kennedy, as one reason that she decided to get involved in the race.

  • "I wasn’t too happy with some of the assault that I saw made on the Kennedy family, and I thought, Joe didn’t ask me to endorse him, but I felt an imperative to do so," Pelosi said.

The other side: "Speaker Pelosi is an effective leader who has shattered glass ceilings throughout her career," Markey responded in a tweet Thursday. "I had the privilege to work alongside Nancy in the House for decades and any candidate would be proud to have her endorsement. I congratulate Joe Kennedy on securing her support."

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Biden's Day 1: Stimulus stall

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A host of alarming new signs suggest that the U.S. economy is on track to deteriorate even faster than had been forecast. A huge reason: A year-end COVID rescue package now looks unlikely.

Why it matters: One of the biggest failures of the current administration and Congress will be a Day One problem for President-elect Joe Biden — and an urgent test of his theory that Republicans will be more willing to work with him once President Trump is gone.

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Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.

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U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.