Administration officials insisted that Obama had reached his own decision earlier this year but said that he told only a small circle of people, numbering roughly six or seven, and made clear to advisers that he wanted to announce his support before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, scheduled for the first week of September.
The timeline was sped up, however, by Biden’s comments, which aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the officials said in a briefing with reporters Wednesday at the White House, speaking on the condition that they not be named or quoted.
White House officials learned about Biden’s statement soon after the news program was recorded Friday. They said Obama then decided he wanted to make his position known.
But first, there were several days of mixed messages. Obama campaign officials quickly called gay rights leaders to play down the vice president’s remarks. An internal debate ensued over how to handle the brewing storm, people familiar with the process said, and whether the president should speak out. Some political strategists worried about alienating conservative swing voters and some in Obama’s base, including African Americans, who tend to oppose gay marriage.