WASHINGTON – News this weekend of a planted question at a Hillary Clinton campaign event this month, and a possible second attempted question plant at another event earlier this year, might be leaving voters with a bad taste in their mouths.
But one long-time Democratic political consultant says it's no surprise.
"I've been involved in four presidential races, and in all of them — our campaign and our opponents — all planted questions. There's nothing new about this," strategist Bob Beckel, a FOX News contributor, said Monday.
Clinton's campaign acknowledged Friday that a staffer had suggested to a Grinnell University student that she ask Clinton a specific question about her position on climate change at an event there Nov. 6. Clinton says she was not aware of the incident until news reports of the matter surfaced.
And FOX News learned Saturday of allegations of a second attempt at planting a question. A Hamilton, Iowa, minister, Geoffrey Mitchell, said he was approached at an April event by a Clinton staffer who he said tried to encourage him to ask a question about how Clinton was standing up to President Bush on the question of funding the Iraq war and a troop withdrawal timeline.
The Clinton campaign denies the conversation between Mitchell and the staffer went as Mitchell recalls it, but Mitchell has since told FOX News he stands by his story.
Beckel pointed to tactics used by President Bush during his campaign events, where he removed people from events who disagreed with him, as evidence of usual political trickery.
Beckel, however, did say that it could be a problem for Clinton in Iowa, where voters are more sensitive to political tactics.
"I would not want to be the Clinton (campaign) person who did that. ... Does it hurt some? Yes, I think it does. Is it something unusual? I don't think it is. And is is going to change a whole lot of caucus goers' votes? If it's repeated again, I would think it probably would," he said.
But political scientist Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said he believes the stain of Clinton's incidents could go deeper.
"Rarely has there been as packaged and protected a presidential candidate as Hillary Clinton. God forbid there should ever be any spontaneity, lest she switch positions again on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants," Sabato said in an e-mail conversation with FOXNews.com, alluding to Clinton's flubbed remarks at a Democratic debate two weeks ago.
"There is already a sense that Clinton is heavily handled and isolated by consultants and staffers. That naturally makes people suspicious, causing them to ask, ‘What does she really think? What would she really do as President?'
"More incidents of planted questions or campaign phoniness could do real damage to her, especially in a state like Iowa that puts great emphasis on genuineness. Iowans expect to get the real scoop directly from the candidates, and they resent being manipulated and spoon-fed packaged sound-bites," Sabato said.
Conservative radio talk-show host Tammy Bruce, speaking with FOX News, said the incidents show Clinton is uncomfortable with dynamic situations.
Events featuring voter questions are "meant for one reason and one reason only: to show us in a campaign how they are going to deal with unpredictable, dynamic situations that they can't control. And what Hillary Clinton has shown us is that even in a friendly audience, she's too afraid to hear unprepared questions," Bruce said.