Big stakes for Biden as Georgia settles Senate races: The Note

The races will decide control of the Senate for the first half of Biden’s term.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

If you manage to take President Donald Trump out of the equation -- and the electoral process is doing that, notwithstanding any phone calls or last-ditch stunts -- the biggest stakes of Georgia's Senate runoffs land on the shoulders of President-elect Joe Biden.

That was going to be the case from the moment it became obvious that the dual races being settled Tuesday would determine control of the Senate for the first half of Biden's first term.

"The power is literally in your hands," Biden told voters at a rally in Atlanta on Monday.

Yes, it's a run-off in Georgia. But Biden just won the state by nearly 12,000 votes and Democrats have again built up an early voting advantage.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are a compelling Democratic tag team -- a dynamic Black pastor and a young white progressive -- benefitting from uncommon Democratic unity and virtually unlimited funding sources.

Trump's attacks on his fellow Republicans also came amid mixed messaging on COVID relief, allowing the Democrats to attack Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and their party as standing in the way of $2,000 checks.

Biden's ultimate success will hinge on whether he can motivate voters to support him and not merely to oppose Trump. The outgoing president may have set this stage, but it's the incoming president's to govern on.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Democratic senatorial candidates Ossoff and Warnock are hoping to stitch together a narrow, delicate and diverse coalition of Georgia voters like the one Biden just barely built. To do that, they need to significantly outperform their own numbers from November.

A reminder that while Biden won at the top of the ticket, Perdue received 88,098 more votes than Ossoff in their race. That means many disillusioned Republicans or conservative independents split their ballots and voted to help get Biden over the top but also back Republicans in Congress. If those same voters come out in force, determined to send a message back to Washington and provide a check on Biden's agenda, Democrats could be in real trouble.

Of course, the president's behavior the last few weeks and that of his allies in the Senate who continue to spread misinformation and doubt about the election results, could have a chilling effect for those voters already frustrated with the GOP.

Democrats continue to be extremely focused on the suburbs as well as racially and ethnically diverse urban centers. Turning out the growing number of Black voters in the state will be key for any Democratic win. The population boom in Atlanta these last few years tells the story of the changing politics in the state.

According to the Pew Research Center, "As a share of eligible voters in the state overall, Black voters saw a 5 percentage point increase between 2000 and 2019. This was the highest growth rate of any racial or ethnic group in Georgia -- and also the largest percentage point increase among Black voters in any state in the country."

Growing populations of Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters could tip the balance in Democrats favor too. While these groups account for relatively small shares of the state's electorate, they have more than tripled in size in the last decade according to Pew Research. And while they are diverse ethnically and politically, they still tend to favor Democrats by large margins.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

The Republican senatorial candidates have been in lockstep with each other throughout the two-month runoff campaign. Together, they called for the secretary of state's resignation, not even a week after the general election. They continue to defend the president's futile electoral contests. Perdue has even referred to Loeffler as his "running mate." But when it comes to control of the Senate, only one of them needs to win to "hold the line" for Republicans.

It's entirely possible that these races don't both swing to Democrats or Republicans. Voters -- people -- are complicated. They don't have to vote in every race on the ballot and they don't have to vote for candidates of the same party.

Ossoff, a 33-year-old media executive who's never held elected office, may be the more disadvantaged Democrat in the two races. While Perdue has only served one term in office, he's at least been elected, unlike Ossoff, who famously lost what became the most expensive House race ever in a 2017 special election. Perdue is also the cousin of a former two-term Georgia governor and the current agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue. Also working against Ossoff -- he trailed Perdue by more than seven times the number of votes the president trailed Biden by, and another 115,000 voters chose the Libertarian over both of them.

Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, may be propelled to victory by a motivated Democratic base of Black voters, still feeling the energy of Biden's victory, which they were key to securing for Democrats for the first time since 1992. Unlike the Ossoff-Perdue matchup, both Warnock and Loeffler have never won elected office, but Loeffler, a former financial executive who is likely the wealthiest senator, was appointed to her seat -- and Warnock hasn't shied away from using that against her on the trail.

"She hasn't been giving millions of dollars to the GOP for nothing: She bought that seat," Warnock said at a December rally. "But the problem that Kelly has is this the folks who sold her that seat don't own it."

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News' Steve Osunsami in Atlanta, who previews Tuesday's Senate runoff elections. ABC News Senior Foreign correspondent Ian Pannell explains what prompted another national lockdown in the UK. And Vice's Lauren Gurley tells us why the formation of a labor union at Google could be a pivotal moment for the tech industry. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Washington Correspondent for the Atlanta Journal Constitution Tia Mitchell joins to discuss why Republicans are attempting to overturn the election. They also check in on the state of the runoffs in Georgia the day before election day. https://53eig.ht/38bcLCf

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Polls open in the Georgia Senate runoff elections at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
  • Vice President Mike Pence leads a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 2:15 p.m.
  • President-elect Joe Biden will meet with transition advisors.
  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with transition advisors.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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