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Is Clinton now planting people in campaign forums?

December 19, 2007 | 12:24 am

An amazing coincidence today on the campaign trail in Iowa with Hillary Clinton.

The New York senator was in Donnellson, Iowa continuing a broad statewide tour by herself, her husband, Magic Johnson and relatives and friends who've spread out to all 99 crucial counties to tell stories about her to soften and help personalize the Democratic candidate's calculating image in what's become a very tight caucus race.

According to the Associated Press, at a campaign forum in the fire station, which will be a caucus site come Jan. 3, Clinton happened to be asked about her religious faith. Practicing Methodist, she responded, adding, "I'm often asked if I'm a praying person and I am a praying person. My father prayed at his bedside every night and we prayed at the table over dinner."

Then, the most incredible thing happened. Someone pointed out that Clinton's childhood Sunday school teacher, Rosalie Bentzinger, from her Park Ridge, Ill. days happened to be right there in the very same Iowa fire station at that same moment. What are the odds? The Sunday school teacher stood up. Clinton rushed over to hug her. It was a warm moment.

The 84-year-old Bentzinger gave Clinton a photograph she happened to have with her. And Clinton announced, "She has a picture of my confirmation class -- March 27, 1959."

Last month, some folks may recall, Clinton was forced to admit planting questions in a similar forum  audience in Newton after a student revealed a Clinton campaign staffer had handed her a question on global warming to ask. Clinton denied this was a regular practice and vowed it wouldn't happen again.

Today, Clinton aides said they were unaware the Sunday school teacher was in the crowd. Still, the incident happened to make a warm story to help personalize the candidate.

--Andrew Malcolm

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