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D.C. Memo: You look happy and healthy (from vaccine)

Emmer’s influence on the 2022 midterm elections, Omar’s not invited to the Middle East and the Canadian border is… still closed.

screen capture of video of olivia rodrigo
Pop star Olivia Rodrigo was at the White House on Wednesday to encourage vaccinations.
REUTERS

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me marveling at the grip that Disney kids actress-turned chart-topping pop star Olivia Rodrigo has on our nation, and on our president — and, it seems, on every political reporter in D.C. If you missed Rodrigo’s address to the nation this week, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered here. This week, we’re looking at: Emmer’s influence on the 2022 midterm elections, Omar’s not invited to the Middle East and the Canadian border is…still closed.

Emmer vs. the ‘burbs

In a New York Times analysis, Trip Gabriel digs into what’s expected to be a 2022 midterm election battleground: the suburbs. Suburban, independent-leaning voters were critical to gettingPresident Biden elected in 2020. But their loyalty to Democrats could be fickle next year, and Republicans are “going to war” for those suburban votes.

Minnesota District Six’s own Rep. Tom Emmer, who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee and the GOP campaign arm, said Republicans would attack Democrats over a set of “incredibly toxic” issues for the suburbs. He listed them as crime, tax increases, border security and the latest flash point of the culture wars, critical race theory — the idea that racism is woven into American institutions, which Republicans have seized on in suburban school districts.

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In other NRCC news, the Committee announced Wednesday that it had raised $45.4 million in the second quarter of 2021, the most it has ever raised in three months of a non-election year, as Republicans seek to take over the House in 2022.

The NRCC said it had $55 million on hand, the highest ever at this point in the election cycle, compared with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $44 million. Both political organizations said they were not in debt.

The DCCC also said last week that it had broken its own record, but its total of $36.5 million for the quarter is about $9 million short of its Republican counterpart.

Emmer thanked the “tens of thousands of generous donors” for the massive sum. House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California transferred $6.6 million to the NRCC in the second quarter, and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana sent in $4.5 million.

Time to open the border, eh?

We’ve talked about the drama at the Minnesota-Canada border in the memo before, and I covered the controversy in a story back in May. Months ago, residents of Minnesota’s Northwest Angle were cut off from the rest of the country and from much of the tourism that fuels their economy. The situation is still much the same now: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month extended the cross-border ban on nonessential travel until July 21.

Rep. Michelle Fischbach, whose district includes the Northwest Angle, said she is hopeful both governments will announce an end to the 17-months-long border closure. Minnesotans along the border, she said, especially those at the Northwest Angle, have waited long enough for a resolution.

In May, Sen. Amy Klobuchar chaired a meeting between 10 U.S. Senators and 14 Canadian Parliamentarians regarding a number of topics, including trade and security. Klobuchar said an announcement from the Canadian government is expected within the next week.

“It is tourism, it’s money on both sides of the border, it’s making it easier to see your family and friends and it’s also about getting goods to market. We have such a close relationship with the Canadians, they’re the biggest trading partner out of Minnesota and the upper Midwest,” Klobuchar said. Klobuchar says the possibility of opening the border up increases as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19.

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It seems the two nations are still trying to come to a compromise on many of those topics, but we’ll be keeping an eye out for more border news next week.

Omar skipped on Middle East trip

A congressional delegation traveled to the Middle East last week, making stops in Israel and Qatar, for the first time since the flare-up in violence between Israelis and Palestinians and the formation of the new Israeli government. One lawmaker who was told she was unable to be a part of the delegation? Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Omar told the Washington Post’s Power Up that when her team reached out to see if there was a seat available for her on the bipartisan CODEL, “it turned out that they’d already finalized it, and because of [coronavirus] restrictions, they could only take a certain number of people.” Omar added “in fairness” that her staff “didn’t push” the staff further on getting her a seat “because I also had a conflict.”

Omar is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee whose criticism of the U.S.-Israel relationship and support for Palestinian rights has exposed a rift in the Democratic Party, and garnered backlash even from her Minnesota colleague Dean Phillips.

Not everyone was happy with those who did make the cut: “From the roster of who attended, it looks like [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee] might have handpicked the delegation,” a Democratic lawmaker told Power Up, referring to the powerful pro-Israel lobbying giant.

President Rodrigo says vaccines are good 4 u

One thing had every D.C. political reporter in a tizzy this week, and that was pop star Olivia Rodrigo’s appearance at the White House to meet with President Biden and encourage young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The 18-year-old’s debut single “drivers license” broke Spotify’s record twice for most daily streams ever for a non-holiday song with over 15.7 million global streams on January 11, 2021 and over 17 million the next day. In the first half of 2021, the song has been the most played, by a long shot.

So, when Rodrigo made her way to the White House, and addressed the nation, it was a pretty big deal. But this event speaks not only to the power of a gloomy teenage ballad but to the Biden Administration’s political strategy: Use the young people in Biden’s life to keep the 78-year-old President relevant to young potential voters.

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POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook gives a great explanation of Biden’s Gen-Z advisers, who happen to be his 20-something granddaughters, Naomi and Finnegan Biden.

“Anything digital he does is purely because his granddaughters tell him to,” a Democrat familiar with the dynamic told the Playbook writers.

“The President talks to his grandkids all the time, and of course he looks for their advice and input on how to reach young Americans and connect with people online,” another official said.

What I’m reading

  • “I couldn’t think about this case without thinking of my son,” Washington Post. We’ve seen quite a few profiles of the people with large roles in the Chauvin trial, but someone the cameras didn’t see is Lola Velazquez-Aguilu, the attorney who built the medical case that was key in helping convict Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd. She said that she originally didn’t want to take the case on because it would take her away from her family, but her young son told her that he wanted her to do the job. And now, Velazquez-Aguilu is in contention to be the next U.S. attorney for Minnesota.
  • An American Kingdom, Washington Post. I may be Post-heavy this week, but this one is worth the read, too. It’s a look into a new and rapidly growing Christian church that is openly political and central to Donald Trump’s GOP. The church is called Mercy Culture: “mercy” for undeserved grace, and “culture” for the world they wanted to create.
  • The Making of an Activist Athlete, Washingtonian. Natasha Cloud is a Washington Mystics player, a WNBA champion, and now the WNBA’s unofficial “minister of social justice.” This in-depth profile covers how she got to that point and the battles she still faces on and off the court.

That’s it from me this week. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or your favorite Olivia Rodrigo song to ahackett@minnpost.com, or find me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.