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A Big Night for Democrats

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The Democratic Party’s 2020 victory just got a lot bigger.

And Joe Biden’s chances of signing ambitious legislation — to fight climate change, reduce economic inequality and slow the coronavirus pandemic — got a lot bigger, too.

The Democrats appear to have won both Senate runoffs in Georgia last night, giving them control of the Senate. The Rev. Raphael Warnock has beaten Senator Kelly Loeffler by about 2 percentage points, according to Times estimates. Most news organizations have not yet called the race between Jon Ossoff and Senator David Perdue, but Ossoff leads by about 16,000 votes and the outstanding votes come from Democratic-leaning areas.

The Times’s Nate Cohn, who analyzes election returns, said he believed Ossoff would likely end up with a lead of more than 0.5 percentage points — large enough to avoid a recount. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote that he considered both races to be over.

The apparent victories will give Democrats control of both the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time in 10 years.

True, their control of the Senate will be by the narrowest of margins — a 50-50 tie, broken by the incoming vice president, Kamala Harris. That narrowness will mean that Democrats will rarely be able to overcome a filibuster and will often be reliant on their most moderate senators, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But a Senate majority will still make a profound difference to the Biden administration. It will be able to pass budget bills and confirm judges (neither of which tend to be vulnerable to filibusters) so long as Democrats remain united.

Mitch McConnell will no longer be Senate majority leader, with the power to decide which bills come up for a vote. Chuck Schumer will be in charge, for the first time.

Much of the economic agenda that Biden proposed during the campaign is now in play. And it was a boldly progressive agenda, including plans to reduce medical costs, expand Medicare, create manufacturing jobs and promote clean energy, as well as raise taxes on the rich. Many of those policies — as well as measures to accelerate a mass vaccination program and increase economic stimulus — can be included in a budget bill this year.

Before last night, the 2020 election looked like a decidedly mixed picture: victory over an incumbent president for the Democrats, combined with a surprisingly good showing for down-ballot Republicans. Last night didn’t erase all the good news for Republicans, but it did rob them of their biggest prize — Senate control.

Biden will now have much more of a chance to be a president who gets things done.

More analysis of the results:

  • Senate control will allow Biden to use a coronavirus stimulus package “as a vehicle for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending to boost the renewable energy economy,” Coral Davenport, a Times climate reporter, says.

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell has plenty of experience in gumming up the works as minority leader. Get ready to hear a lot about Senate moderates in both parties and a procedure called ‘reconciliation,’ which allows some legislation to skirt a filibuster,” Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, says.

  • Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, told CNN that final results would probably be available by lunchtime today.

  • Josh Kraushaar of National Journal noted that Perdue ran well ahead of Ossoff in the election’s first round two months ago — suggesting that the last two months of events had hurt Republicans.

  • Maggie Haberman of The Times pointed out that the Republican losses came despite Trump’s campaigning in the state: “This is the first indication of the damage he’s done his own level of influence in the party in the last two months.”

  • Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review wrote on Twitter that Perdue and Loeffler suffered from three problems: “being unimpressive candidates, GA shifting purple, and Trump being a maniac.”

  • Nate Cohn wrote that, compared with the November elections, turnout fell the most in rural and heavily pro-Trump parts of Georgia and the least in heavily Black areas.

  • Until 2020, no Democrat had won a statewide race in Georgia since 2006. And one person — Stacey Abrams — is most responsible for Georgia’s new status as a Democratic state, Reid Epstein and Astead Herndon of The Times write.

You can follow the latest from The Times all day.

For most of human history, people didn’t have to worry about burning too few calories. They had to worry about burning too many and dying from exhaustion or starvation.

In fact, exercise — as we now define it — was sometimes a punishment. “For more than a century, English convicts (among them Oscar Wilde) were condemned to trudge for hours a day on enormous and steplike treadmills,” Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, writes in his new book, “Exercised,” which is well-timed for new year’s resolutions.

As Lieberman explains, exercising for the sake of doing so is unnatural, from an evolutionary perspective. But the sedentary nature of modern life forces many people to choose between unhealthy habits and unnatural ones.

As Lieberman takes readers through the history and anthropology of physical exertion, he also encourages people not to be too hard on themselves. You don’t actually need a standing desk, for example. You just need to avoid sitting still for extended periods. “Take a break. Get up. Or at least ‘squirm shamelessly,’” John Hawks, a University of Wisconsin anthropologist, writes, in his Wall Street Journal review of “Exercised.”

“What works?” Jen Miller, The Times’s running columnist, writes in her review. “It’s not especially complicated, and Lieberman outlines the science behind his prescription of a mix of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, strength training and high-intensity interval training.”

Related: The Times’s Tara Parker-Pope makes the case for short bursts of physical activity she describes as “exercise snacks.”

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was cornily. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Thought aloud (five letters).

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. Ad Age named The Times’s jazz-inspired ad campaign “Life Needs Truth” its “No. 1 idea of the year.”

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the results in Georgia’s runoff elections. On the Book Review Podcast, Fareed Zakaria talks about life after the pandemic.

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