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Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Photo: Axios

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said that Virginia and other states around the country have seen a "dramatic uptick" in early voting among those most likely to support Vice President Joe Biden during an Axios News Shapers event on Friday.

Why it matters: Early voting has taken on increased importance and use nationwide amid the coronavirus pandemic with as many as 80 million people expected to cast their ballots before Election Day, whether by mail or in person.

What he's saying: "When people vote early, the parties get the information about whose ballots have been returned. Obviously, they don't get information about how the ballots have been cast, but we know whose ballots have been returned," Kaine told Axios' Mike Allen.

  • "And what parties do in Virginia and elsewhere is we give everybody a score statewide as to how likely they are to be a Democratic or a Republican voter."
  • "What we've seen in Virginia and elsewhere is just a dramatic uptick in votes for people who we would think would be, frankly, on the Democratic side, and that just is a suggestion of energy."
  • "We always look at who's voting early to give us an indication of energy, and that's usually a pretty solid bit of evidence to use to make a prediction about the outcome."

The big picture: Virginia already saw a huge jump in voting by mail during its municipal elections in May. Forty-two times as many mail-in ballots were cast in that election than in 2016.

  • In 20 Virginia towns and nine cities, more than half the votes cast in the municipal election were absentee.
  • And some people waited in line for four hours on the state's first day of early voting for the general election in September.

The other side: President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that increased mail-in voting spurred by the pandemic will lead to widespread voter fraud.

  • That has spurred consternation among some top Republicans. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has privately encouraged voting by mail and warned Trump the party could be "screwed" by his fight against mail-in voting.

Watch Axios' News Shapers event.

Go deeper

Trump targets Liz Cheney and other Republicans as "weak" in new escalation of GOP civil war

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Addressing a huge crowd of loyal supporters south of the White House, President Trump declared that he will never concede to Joe Biden and attacked "weak Republicans" — calling out "the Liz Cheneys of the world" — for failing to support his efforts to overturn the results of the election.

Why it matters: It's a new escalation in Trump's war against the GOP, which has pitted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other mainstream Republicans against the most popular figure in the party. Cheney is a member of House Republican leadership, meaning that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will likely be forced to respond.

Updated Jan 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Schumer declares Democratic majority in the Senate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared on Wednesday that Democrats have gained control of the Senate, calling it a "brand new day" in Washington.

The state of play: The AP projected that Rev. Raphael Warnock has defeated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R). Democrat Jon Ossoff is currently leading in the race against former Sen. David Perdue (R), but the contest is still too close to call.

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.