Mr. Axelrod said he was no longer attending. Rahm Emanuel, who served as Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff, had also planned to attend the bash. But he said he got a call Tuesday night telling him that if he was not already on the island, he should not come.
Mr. Emanuel said he joked to Marty Nesbitt, the former president’s close friend and the chairman of the Obama Foundation, that the revoked invitation was an exercise in character building. “I told him that we literally got voted off the island,” Mr. Emanuel said.
Mr. Obama’s change of plans came days after President Biden effectively conceded that the pandemic had come roaring back, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an internal document that the Delta variant was much more contagious and more likely to break through vaccine protections than all other known versions of the virus.
Mr. Obama, however, had at first appeared eager to carry on with his plans, displaying what some Democrats supportive of Mr. Obama said they viewed as a casual disregard for the optics of his birthday bash. Even as cities like Washington reimposed mask mandates indoors, a source involved in the planning of Mr. Obama’s birthday party said the event would go on as planned, underscoring that it would be outdoors and all guests would be following C.D.C. public health protocols.
Some of Mr. Obama’s former aides also defended his decision to carry on.
“Guys…buy a map,” Tommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesman, wrote on Twitter in response to a news article about the party proceeding amid growing concerns about the coronavirus after an outbreak in the vaccinated community of Provincetown, Mass. “Martha’s Vineyard is an island. It’s not close to Provincetown.”