At the outset of the administration, Mr. Trump courted Mr. Manchin and tried to persuade him to become a Republican. But Mr. Manchin stuck with Democrats in voting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and against Mr. Trump’s tax bill. Then he crossed party lines to become the lone Democratic vote in favor of confirming Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Some Democrats said Mr. Manchin’s guilty vote on impeachment surprised them. He had floated the possibility of a censure in the days before the final vote. In the interview, he said he thought it might be a way to get some bipartisan consensus that Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky was hardly “perfect,” as the president had repeatedly said.
“I don’t think there was a person among those 100 senators who believed the president had a perfect phone call and didn’t do anything wrong. I believe they all know something was wrong,” he said. “I thought censure would be the way we could get a majority of the vote, and I couldn’t even get one Republican to sign on.”
Mike Plante, a Democratic strategist in West Virginia, said he took the talk of censure as an indication that Mr. Manchin was thinking of voting to acquit.
“People were pleasantly surprised and happy that he took this step,” Mr. Plante said, referring to Democrats. “He clearly recognized that this was more than politics as usual. This was history, and he did not miss that moment.”
But Nick Casey, the former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party and a close Manchin ally, said he was not surprised. “Joe has never been shy about going into the belly of the beast if he does something that he is very comfortable with. And if people disagree with him, that’s their right. He got elected to make decisions, and he made one.”
His vote caused a bit of a dust-up between Mr. Manchin and the state’s other senator, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican. In an interview on Fox News last week, she said the vote was “not being received well here at home” and said that Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, had probably “just pulled the noose a little tight and said, ‘Come on, everybody, we’re going to jump off this cliff together.’”