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Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump needed the vote of just one more Republican senator to keep the repeal-and-replace process alive — and he could easily have had it.

Party sources tell us that during the transition, Senate Republicans heavily lobbied Trump to nominate red- state Senate Democrats to Cabinet positions, with the hope that the successors would be Republicans.

But Trump went with an all-GOP Cabinet — a fateful decision that fostered this scorched-earth atmosphere, in which no Democrat is willing to help him with his legislative priorities.

  • The #1 prospect was Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), perhaps for Secretary of Agriculture. North Dakota Gov Doug Burgum is a Republican, so he could have engineered a successor who would have been the vote Trump needed.
  • Another possibility that was kicked around was Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for a job like Secretary of Energy. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is a Democrat but has a close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and might have played ball on a conservative replacement.
  • Another Cabinet prospect: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Why it matters: A Republican strategist, closely familiar with the transition conversations, say in an email: "That vote would have repealed Obamacare last month [the stronger version that was considered before the Fourth of July break]. A strong Chief [of staff] would have understood and executed on that wisdom instead of waiting and watching the President's agenda lose by narrow margin.

"In short, if [Gen. John] Kelly — or someone of equal strength — was the Chief of Staff in January, Obamacare would be repealed today. And who knows what else may already be accomplished."

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Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

3 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.