Fight night in St. Louis

613703098
After it was all over in St. Louis, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton shook hands.

IT DIDN'T take long to get to the tale of the tape.

And rightly so. The tape, we're told is causing seismic shifts in the presidential race in ways that could swallow The Donald's campaign.

So 10 minutes in to Sunday night's 90-minute presidential debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Trump about the tape (you know which one) and whether Trump ever did to women the things he seem to say he did.

"No, I have not," said Trump.

Trump also said, the tape is just locker room talk and, "I have great respect for women."

Hmm. On the tape, a 2005 Access Hollywood hot mic audio and video gem, Trump talked about how he hit on a married woman and could, because of his star power, grab the genitals of others.

Its release by The Washington Post late Friday ignited lots of calls to (again) dump Trump, so going into Sunday night, I was looking for one thing. Is this race over?

At the start I thought, yeah, seems that way.

There was no opening handshake.

Trump was sniffing more than usual. Hillary seemed pretty relaxed.

And not only did The Donald have to answer whether or not he's committed what amounts to sexual assault, but Hillary Clinton hit him hard saying the tape "represents exactly who he is."

For the first 20 minutes, it was back and forth about sex and women: not only the tape but Bill Clinton's history with women who accused him of assault or rape, which Trump called worse than "words" on a tape.

But as the debate settled in, Trump didn't fold. He and she went at it as they did in the first debate, tagging each other as unfit to be president.

She said he's running a "hateful, divisive campaign." He said she lies a lot.

He got aggressive about her 33,000 deleted State Department emails, walking towards her, pointing and saying if elected, he'll get a special prosecutor to "look into your situation."

She snapped back that "everything he just said" was false, and that we're lucky he's not in charge of the laws of the country, to which he countered, "Because you'd be in jail."

They fought over taxes, Obamacare, foreign policy and her record in public life. Mostly nothing new.

So is the race over? Remember, as Clinton said last night, "Donald Trump is different."

Think of his political staying power. Think of all he's said and done that hasn't sunk him yet.

How anyone who's paid even passing attention to Trump is shocked by anything he said, says, did or does is beyond me.

How so much of the media STILL doesn't get the Trump attraction - which, for the attracted, is consistent no matter what - remains, to me, a mystery.

As former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Salena Zito, who does get it, recently wrote of Trump in The Atlantic, "The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally."

That seems to be backed up by a poll taken over the weekend after release of the Access Hollywood video.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll of 1,549 registered voters shows Trump lost just one percent of support since the video's release. The poll shows Clinton leading 42-38. A Politico/Morning Consult poll last week showed Clinton leading 41-39.

Yes, Trump's recorded comments about women were vulgar, vile, repulsive, repugnant and, apparently for many Trump supporters, mostly shrug-inducing.

So, is it over? Well, the final debate, on Oct. 19, is in Vegas, a city that, at least in terms of gaudiness, can offer Trump some comfort, even a hometown-like edge.

baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer