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D.C. Memo: The Minnesota turkey vote

This week: Jake Sullivan talks diplomacy in a Biden administration, lawmakers eye more COVID relief, and the AP takes note of state Sen. Tom Bakk’s party switch.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Of the top five turkey producing states in the U.S., Minnesota was the only to go for Biden.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. Gabe is long gone and the MinnPost editors are busy pretending like they’re busy, so it’s my turn to give this thing a shot. Don’t say you weren’t warned. This week: Jake Sullivan talks diplomacy in a Biden administration, lawmakers eye more COVID relief, and the AP takes note of state Sen. Tom Bakk’s party switch. Here we go:

Sullivan’s take

The Star Tribune reported on comments Jake Sullivan made in a virtual forum a few days after he was tapped by President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. to be his national security advisor — one of the plum jobs in the White House. Sullivan, a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Minneapolis’ Southwest High School who served as an advisor in Hillary Clinton’s Department of State, appeared in the forum with University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs and former Vice President Walter Mondale. In response to Republican concerns about the diplomatic strength of a Biden administration, Sullivan made the case that influence abroad flows from strength at home, wrote the Star Tribune’s Patrick Condon.

What are those strengths?  “A stronger economy for working people, huge new investments in research and development, owning our future in key industries like clean energy and advanced manufacturing, making sure our democracy is robust and strong and inclusive and diverse, with institutions rooted in deep constitutional principles,” Sullivan said.

He added: “In so doing, we are going to be able to compete, and to out-compete, everyone.  Including China.”

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Pandemic politics

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Third District Rep. Dean Phillips are part of a group of lawmakers working on a $908 billion COVID relief bill in Congress, though the Strib’s Jim Spencer writes that the compromise bill faces “unclear prospects” as the congressional session nears its end.  Klobuchar said she would “not come home until we get something done” while Phillips — who worked on the plan with colleagues in the House Problem Solvers Caucus and with moderate senators — said “compromise is the name of the game.” Meanwhile, Minnesota’s other senator, Democrat Tina Smith, told Spencer she was considering the bill. “I’ve never worked any place where I have heard more people talk loudly about the need for action without action actually happening,” Smith said, adding that “I appreciate that they are working together to get something done. … The urgency to act is clear.”

The Democrats and rural America

In a post-mortem on the Democrats’ dismal showing in some rural Midwest regions in the November elections, the Associated Press’ Thomas Beaumont notes the results in Koochiching County in northern Minnesota, which the Democrats used to own. This time around: President Donald Trump carried the county with 60 percent of the vote. The AP also mentioned the U.S. House of Representatives election in Minnesota’s Seventh District, where Democrat Collin Peterson lost the seat he had held for 30 years. In explaining the switch, the Beaumont’s story also cited Minnesota state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, who recently broke from the DFL Party along with another Iron Range lawmaker, Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm to form an independent caucus. Bakk told the AP that Trump’s success in Koochiching County wasn’t because voters there are suddenly shifting to the right; rather, it’s because Democrats have steadily moved too far to the left. “We’ve got to see if we can get the Democratic Party to moderate and accept the fact that rural Minnesota is not getting more conservative,” Bakk said. “It’s that you guys are leaving them behind.” He added: “I would argue everyone talks about the big tent. It’s not as big as it used to be.”

Talking turkey

In a kinda-sorta related item, Politico’s Weekly Agriculture newsletter notes that President Donald Trump carried four of the top five turkey-producing states. The one he didn’t: Minnesota (which is, of course, the nation’s top turkey producing state). Still, as Politico notes, Trump “won the three Minnesota districts that sell the bulk of the state’s birds — including the 7th District, which is by far the biggest turkey supplier in the country, with almost 30 million sold in 2017. … The district’s pro-Trump wave also helped Republican challenger Michelle Fischbach take down House Ag Chair Collin Peterson, though the ag sector invested heavily in backing Peterson.”

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Meanwhile, out in the ’burbs …

… it’s a very different story, as detailed in this piece from a few weeks ago, in which the New York Times’ John Eligon does deep on Chaska, a Twin Cities suburb out in my neck of the woods (Carver County), using it as a case study for the changing nature of suburban politics. The whole piece is worth a read, but the anecdote at the end is particularly well-told: “Ashley Tike and her husband, Guillaume, represent the demographic change that has made suburbs bluer. They met in Los Angeles, where Ms. Tike moved after attending college in North Dakota … . They moved to Minnesota last year when she was pregnant so that they could be closer to her parents, and they chose Chaska because it was quieter and more affordable than a big city. But for all of its advantages, Ms. Tike, a 26-year-old figure skating coach, felt politically out of place. Still, she thought that the stakes in this election were too high to stay silent, so she nervously planted a Biden sign in their front yard. ‘I was just kind of like, “Well, I haven’t met any of the neighbors really anyway because of Covid, and so if they hate us, they hate us,” she said. ‘I just felt like Trump needed to get out. Every time I saw him on the TV, my fists were clenching.’ Shortly after Ms. Tike put out the sign, a neighbor on one side came to her and said that her own Biden sign was on its way. Then, the neighbor on the other side also approached Ms. Tike: Where could she get her own Biden sign, she asked.”

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Three great weekend reads

Before you go

Finally, in the off chance you missed them, here are three can’t-miss from MinnPost from this week:

Thanks for reading!  You can contact me at or find me on Twitter.