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By Dan Eggen and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 15, 2008; Page A16
Standing behind a lectern in Michigan this week, with two trusted senators ready to do his bidding, John McCain seemed to forget for a moment that he was only running for president.
Asked about his tough rhetoric on the ongoing conflict in Georgia, McCain began: "If I may be so bold, there was another president . . ."
He caught himself and started again: "At one time, there was a president named Ronald Reagan who spoke very strongly about America's advocacy for democracy and freedom."
With his Democratic opponent on vacation in Hawaii, the senator from Arizona has been doing all he can in recent days to look like President McCain, particularly when it comes to the ongoing international crisis in Georgia.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says he talks to McCain, a personal friend, several times a day. McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was until recently a paid lobbyist for Georgia's government. McCain also announced this week that two of his closest allies, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), would travel to Georgia's capital of Tbilisi on his behalf, after a similar journey by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The extent of McCain's involvement in the military conflict in Georgia appears remarkable among presidential candidates, who traditionally have kept some distance from unfolding crises out of deference to whoever is occupying the White House. The episode also follows months of sustained GOP criticism of Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, who was accused of acting too presidential for, among other things, briefly adopting a campaign seal and taking a trip abroad that included a huge rally in Berlin.
John McCain, who made his name attacking special interests, has more lobbyists working on his staff or as advisers than any of his competitors, Republican or Democrat.
All told, there are 11 current or former lobbyists working for or advising McCain, at least double the number in any other campaign.