After all, Trump's approval rating throughout his four years was dismal. Large majorities of people believed he mishandled the Covid-19 pandemic, with deadly results. He alienated many loyal Republicans with his brash style and his constant tweeting.
"I just can't believe that 72 million people were either that mad or that scared of the Democrat Party to vote for what I consider a very flawed individual. Here's a person who lost 230,000 lives under his watch, basically denounced the science completely because it might hurt him politically, has a lack of compassion or empathy for humans, and denigrates anybody and everybody that does not agree with him. How 72 million people could still walk in and say, 'Yeah, it's better than that,' I just can't figure it out.
"That was a sobering thing for me. My state got wiped out this election. So I would say, I'm just looking at myself, I have not been good at my message. I know why I'm a Democrat. And I know that I've never seen the Democrat Party forsake anybody."
And yet, for nearly 74 million Americans, that was good enough for them to cast a vote for Trump to win a second term. The question Manchin raises -- and anyone interested in politics and the future of the two major national parties needs to ponder -- is, well, why?
The truth is there is no one simple answer.
But there are other factors at work here, too.
The increased tendency of Americans to live, work and socialize with people who think like them about politics in the country had led to a silo-ing of experience in which you never come into contact with someone you like and respect but happens to disagree with you on political matters.
And yes, Trump's appeal to our worst instincts -- on race, immigration and any other thing that can be used to divide us -- clearly played a role as well.
The simple fact is that, for lots of Republicans, any Republican running for president -- even one whose allegiance to the GOP and its long-standing policies is tenuous at best -- is better than voting for any Democrat. Because while Hillary Clinton was, without question, a deeply polarizing figure that many Republicans had long loathed, Biden was none of those things.
If ever there was a Democratic nominee in this moment who could make a reasonable bid for GOP votes as a pragmatic centrist who simply wanted to return things to normal, Biden was it. And while he did win some traditional Republicans -- again, mostly in the suburbs -- Trump still managed to get 10 million more votes than he did four years ago.
While there are Republicans in 2016 who could have voted for Trump hoping he might behave more, uh, in a more presidential way once he got into office, no one could vote for Trump in 2020 without knowing exactly what they were voting for.
Which brings me back to Manchin's point. Is the real issue here -- as the West Virginia Democrat argues -- that he has "not been good at my message," not, in other words, done as good a job as he could in explaining to his constituents what the Democratic Party stands for and believes? That suggests that there are people who are open to the Democratic message if only it is presented in the right way or by the right messenger.
But Biden's struggle to win over any large swaths of Republicans -- despite Trump being Trump -- suggests that maybe there simply isn't any measurable number of people who are even open to hearing ANY message from a Democrat. Meaning that this polarization is DEEPLY entrenched.
Which is a far more depressing reality that, if true, suggests that the divisions of the Trump era aren't going away anytime soon -- if they are going away at all.