Sen. Joe Manchin (D.,W.Va.) said that he has had more personal time with President Donald Trump than he ever did with former President Barack Obama.
Manchin said that in the first two months of the Trump administration, he has talked with Trump more than he did with Obama in eight years, according to a Politico profile of the senator.
"I’ve had more personal time with Trump in two months than I had with [Barack] Obama in eight years," Manchin said.
Manchin told Politico that he could call Trump at anytime and Trump himself would be the one to answer the phone. Manchin called it the "damnedest thing" he's ever seen in his life.
"I can call Donald Trump now, and he’ll probably pick up," Manchin said. "He picks up his phone. If you’ve got his number, he’ll talk to you. Damnedest thing I ever seen in my life."
Manchin described a conversation he had with Trump over Thanksgiving weekend. Trump called Manchin without notice to let him know that he looked forward to working across the aisle with the West Virginian Democrat.
Since that call, Manchin has taken a different approach to his relationship with Trump compared to his Democratic colleagues. When some Democratic lawmakers announced that they would skip Trump's inauguration, Manchin criticized them and said it was "uncalled for." While Democrats were obstructing Trump's cabinet nominees, Manchin was one of the few Democrats to vote for a majority of them.
Manchin's cooperation with Trump has angered progressive groups. Some groups have begun petitioning for a more progressive candidate to challenge Manchin in the 2018 primary.
"Our position is that Democrats in red states are shooting themselves in the foot for the November 2018 election if they are not fighting Trump," Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said.
One fellow Democratic senator warned progressives about challenging red-state Democrats like Manchin.
"If you want to have a Democratic Party in places like West Virginia, you have to be happy about somebody like Joe Manchin, right?" Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) said.
Throughout the Obama administration, Manchin was a frequent critic of the president's policies. When the Obama administration tried to implement last minute regulations targeting the coal industry, Manchin joined Republicans in vowing to weaken or repeal the regulations.
During the 2010 campaign, Manchin released a campaign ad that showed him shooting a copy of President Obama's cap and trade bill. Manchin did vote for Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, but when asked if he voted for Obama in 2012, he wouldn't give an answer.
"That’s between me and my ballot," Manchin said.