Think the Trump tape scandal is the end of his campaign? No way

Donald Trump had a weak start to the debate when asked about the leaked "Access Hollywood" tape containing his lewd and aggressive comments about women. But then he got lucky, and thanks to foolishly persistent questions about the topic, Trump turned the issue into a win.

Trump genuinely tried on three occasions to deflect the questions about the tape. His stock answer on three occasions was: "This was locker room talk. I'm not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people. Certainly I'm not proud of it, but this is locker room talk."

Frankly, that seemed like the best anyone could do under the circumstances. But it would still have been a loss as far as his election chances go. But after the first online question chosen by the moderators was also about the tape, making it four straight questions about the issue, Trump opened the floodgates with comments about Bill Clinton and special mentions of his sexual assault accusers and Hillary Clinton's connection with his defense in those cases.

Had Trump started his responses with the attacks on the Clintons' personal lives, it would have looked desperate and probably would have made matters worse. But after being so obviously dragged into it by the repeated questions, he appeared to be relatively measured and fair. Those are two things not many people have used to describe Trump... ever.

Of course, Trump set things up for the debate about two hours before the debate by convening a brief news conference using three of Bill Clinton's sexual assault accusers and the woman who says Hillary Clinton emotionally tortured her while defending the man she says raped her as a child. Apparently, the Trump campaign would have been satisfied with that. Instead, thanks to overzealous moderators who seemed hell-bent on devoting a third of the debate time on the leaked tape question, Trump turned a no-win situation into a victory.

And, while many predicted this leaked tape would be the demise of Trump's campaign, writing Trump's electoral obituary is jumping the gun.

There are still 30 days until Election Day — that still gives the Trump campaign, and uncontrollable general news events plenty of time to dilute the potency of this scandal.

And, let's not forget how many times the Trump campaign's obituary has been written before — to no avail. His chances were ruled dead by the pundits when he called the Mexican illegal immigrants "rapists." They were called dead when he trashed Senator John McCain for being captured in Vietnam. They were called dead when he personally attacked the Muslim parents of an American soldier killed in Iraq.

On and on it's gone since June of last year. If this is the scandal that finally brings Trump down, it'll only be a case of five, six, or seven strikes and you're out. And it's not over until Election Day.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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