Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman advised the White House on how President Obama should announce his support for gay marriage.

A Harvard classmate of Obama’s, Mehlman told the president over a White House lunch that it was politically viable to reverse his position and support gay marriage, according to a report in The New York Times.


Mehlman, who managed George W. Bush’s reelection campaign and came out as gay in 2010, told Obama that the American public viewed him as an idealist willing to put politics aside, and that endorsing same-sex marriage would reinforce that image.

Mehlman also emailed with top Obama aide David Plouffe, to suggest Obama announce his support in a TV interview with a female host, and recommended the president frame the decision as a family decision and not about politics.

Obama eventually used an interview with ABC News journalist Robin Roberts to make public his decision.

Mehlman told the Times that he conducted a survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and found most supported some form of legal recognition for gay relationships. He also found that the issue of same-sex marriage had low salience for Republican voters, so the president reversing course would not damage him politically.

“The notion that politically this is going to kill you — I don’t buy it,” Mehlman said.

Since the president’s announcement, support for same-sex marriage has increased substantially. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released last month found nearly six in 10 Americans supported gay marriage, with just a third opposed. A Pew Research survey released last month also found that 61 percent of Republican voters age 29 and younger support allowing same-sex couples to marry.