The White House is backing off its push for quick confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick to be surgeon general in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association and concerns among Democrats up for re-election who don’t want to take another tough vote on a controversial nominee.

Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a Harvard Medical School physician and Obama political organizer, is the latest nominee to be targeted for defeat by an outside group in the midst of the midterm election campaign. Murthy’s support of gun control drew the ire of the NRA, which was a driving force 11 months ago in the defeat of Obama-endorsed stronger background checks for firearms purchases.

The White House has decided that, at least for now, it won’t put its vulnerable incumbents in the position of taking a vote that could hurt them in the November elections. It’s an embarrassing setback for Obama, a week after the Senate blocked his pick of Debo Adegbile as the government’s chief civil rights attorney.

The National Fraternal Order of Police mounted a campaign against Adegbile for his advocacy on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer. The White House pressed ahead for a vote but was angered that seven Democrats joined all 44 Republicans in blocking Adegbile.

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