But it was the votes of seven Democratic senators to reject Mr. Adegbile that doomed the nomination despite what White House officials described as a sustained closed-door effort by Mr. Obama and his top aides to save it. The president personally appealed to Senate Democrats at a recent caucus meeting and made several calls to Democratic senators in the last week, officials said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, continued making calls Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
White House officials said they believed until Wednesday morning that the nomination would succeed, a vote count that proved disastrously wrong. Top aides to Mr. Obama were “furious” at the Democratic senators who voted against Mr. Adegbile, one senior official said.
Senior congressional Democrats were incredulous about the White House’s surprise. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, called Mr. McDonough at 10 p.m. Tuesday to inform him the votes were not there. He made the same call Wednesday morning, also informing the attorney general. The White House pressed forward anyway.