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Two minutes before his introduction on stage yesterday, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt walked across the ballroom of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel unnoticed by most of the pinstriped crowd dining on crab cakes and tenderloin.
By the time the clock ran out on Schmidt's 25-minute speech, more than a third of the audience was gone.
It was a strong showing, compared to the last time a big Google executive was in town. Google co-founder Sergey Brin swooped into Washington last year, decked in jeans and silver mesh sneakers, trying unsuccessfully to score meetings with members of Congress. He was caught unawares by an inside-the-Beltway public-relations campaign directed against his company.