By Dana Bash
CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama’s latest effort to court GOP lawmakers through personal meetings may be grabbing headlines, but members of his own party say it’s not just Republicans who deserve some face time with the commander-in-chief.
Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who’s one of the most conservative voices in his party, said Obama is just now beginning to forge personal relationships with Senate Democrats, despite having served in the chamber before being elected president.
“Maybe he’s just finding his stride now. It maybe hasn’t been his style,” Manchin speculated, noting that even in the Senate, Obama didn’t develop close relationships with fellow lawmakers.
“When he first got here, people all around saw all the talent he had, and he was running from day one,” he said. “So building those relationships, he never had a chance to cultivate them.”
Manchin was speaking the day before Obama heads to Capitol Hill for a meeting with the entire Senate Democratic caucus, kicking off three days of meetings with the entire Democratic and Republican coalitions in both chambers of Congress. And last week the president invited a dozen GOP senators to dinner, part of a new effort to reach out to rank-and-file lawmakers who could help forge compromise on a host of legislative issues.
But while the attention is focused on Obama’s meetings with Republicans, Democrats say they, too, want to develop better personal relationships with the president, and in doing so exchange ideas on how to better lead the country.
“I was very pleased to see him reach out to his collegues on the other side, and I would hope he would reach out to us as well,” said Manchin, adding the tactic worked for him during his time as governor of West Virginia.
“He needs to accept that these people can all build relationships,” Manchin said. “You don’t have to invite us to dinner. We don’t have to be out as much as some of them want to be, but we want to be heard.”
He added later, “I think the people he’s been able to cultivate relationships with have been true friends. I respect that. But there’s a lot of us that like to work.”
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