White House press aides declined to give a reason for the conditions of anonymity, which The Washington Times and others protested.
Last week, Mr. Obama personally spent one hour each in the Oval Office with the four front-runners - Judge Sotomayor, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diane Wood.
Judge Sotomayor’s interview - her first-ever meeting with Mr. Obama - was Thursday, the same day he hosted the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers at the White House. The officials said the two discussed legal theory and the Constitution and that in all she spent seven hours at the White House.
The president told his aides Friday of his inclination toward Judge Sotomayor but wanted to spend the weekend thinking about it.
After some time with his family at Camp David, Mr. Obama came to his final decision at 8 p.m. Monday night, phoning each contender from the presidential study in the East Wing of the White House to let them know. On Tuesday morning, he also phoned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy and ranking Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions to inform them of his decision.
The nomination advanced Mr. Obama’s previously stated goal of having a Souter successor confirmed by the U.S. Senate in time for the court opening session Oct. 5. Instead, the president and his advisers said Tuesday that he wants her in place after Labor Day to help deliberate about which cases to accept for the new term.
The Senate confirmed Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by unanimous consent in August 1992, and she was confirmed to the 2nd Circuit 67-29 in 1998 after being nominated by Democratic President Clinton. All 29 votes against her came from Republicans, including Mr. McConnell, Mr. Sessions and 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.
The White House rebuts that point by noting she was supported by a wide variety of senators - “from progressive Democrats to [highly conservative Sens.] Jesse Helms and Rick Santorum” during her past confirmation.
Aides said when Mr. Obama was done meeting with Judge Sotomayor, he was struck by her approach to the bench, including her ability to bridge ideological differences on the court, a skill her colleagues appointed by Republican presidents said allowed her to help produce consensus opinions.
“He left that meeting with a reinforced sense that she would be very effective,” said an official who debriefed with the president about each interview.
Other potential choices were asked to submit detailed questionnaires. The officials described the process as “very, very rigorous.”
Among the vetting considerations were Judge Sotomayor’s taxes and her diabetes, which White House aides discussed with her doctors and outside doctors.
White House advisers said Judge Sotomayor was “in the mix” for a long time, perhaps as early as the presidential transition when potential names were compiled.