updated 8/25/2008 5:44:44 PM ET 2008-08-25T21:44:44

John McCain told a crowd at a fundraiser that his wife is on her way to the embattled nation of Georgia, an announcement coming just hours before Barack Obama's wife makes a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention.

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McCain told a crowd that wife, Cindy, was to accompany him on his visit to California and he apologized for her absence.

"Cindy is not here today and I'm sorry she's not," said McCain. "She's on her way to the little country of Georgia."

McCain has been a staunch supporter of Georgia in that country's clash with Russia, and sending his wife there underscores his commitment. It also could deflect attention from Michelle Obama's convention speech in Denver as the Obama campaign seeks to introduce the family to voters.

In his speech to the fundraiser, McCain did not mention Michelle Obama's speech, but did give the 500 people attending the event something of a history lesson.

"Georgia was one of the first Christian nations," McCain said. "Georgia, back in the Third Century, the king of Georgia converted to Christianity. You see churches there that date back to the Fourth and Fifth Century."

McCain said it is important to support Georgia because it is a democracy, but also because key oil pipelines run through the country.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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