"Associates" = "Lobbyists"?

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Here is the most explosive graph from the Times story:

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.

"Associates" -- that's an umbrella term for friends, family members, aides and the like. But if the Times really had former paid campaign staffers -- aides -- making these allegations, it would have attributed them to "aides."

Who might associates be? Who might disillusioned associates be?

How about Washington lobbyists who (a) may have known Vicki Iseman personally, (b) supported McCain in 2000, (b) would have been of significant enough stature to known McCain personally, and (c) either endorsed another candidate in 2008 or refused to endorse McCain?

The tip for this story originated in November, according to the New Republic -- in other words, during the height of the primary season when McCain was beginning to make a comeback in New Hampshire.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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