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Donald Trump ‘Is Not Teflon,’ Clinton Campaign Manager Says

Key Speakers At The Bloomberg Washington Economy SummitKey Speakers At The Bloomberg Washington Economy Summit
John Podesta at an industry event in Washington, D.C. in April 2013.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

John Podesta, manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, believes it’s only a matter of time before people start taking Donald Trump more seriously.

And when they do, they won’t like what they see.

“We don’t think he’s a risk that the country can accept,” Podesta said at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “That information will penetrate. He’s not Teflon.”

For many months, the press covered Donald Trump as a phenomenon. Now that he’s the presumptive Republican nominee, that will change, Podesta said.

“Between now and November, [Trump’s offhand comments about nuclear weapons] will seem less funny,” he said.

And what of Clinton? Podesta made it clear the campaign considers the Democratic race is over—and will officially be once California votes—and has tried to bridge the divide between Clinton and opponent Bernie Sanders.

“We have chosen to run a race that is trying to honor what he’s brought to the Democratic race,” he said. Still—Clinton “has taken a much more serious pounding through the course of this campaign and she’ll be a stronger candidate. She’s shown she can stand up to that and keep going.”

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Enduring criticism—it’s a talent that has helped Clinton weather the ongoing scandal about her unauthorized use of a private email server during her years as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

“The decision to use a private email system in retrospect was the wrong one,” Podesta said. She can’t do anything else but apologize, learn a lesson, “and move on.”

So with the primaries virtually wrapped up, what’s the Clintonian strategy for Trump? Podesta said the key is to stay above the fray.

“One thing we can’t do, and we need to resist doing, is getting in the gutter with him, rolling around the mud with him, sort of tit-for-tat with him on Twitter,” he said. “I do not think that’s who she is. It will not work for her.”