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Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), is seen during the National Convention of the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB), that declared support for Alckmin candidacy for the presidency of the republic, in Brasilia, Brazil August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Senator Ana Amelia Lemos of the conservative Progressistas party said on Thursday that centrist presidential candidate Geraldo Alckmin was close to confirming her as his running mate, and added the final decision could come on Friday.

The pick may help Alckmin, the business-friendly former governor of Sao Paulo target a weakness of the front-runner, right-wing congressman Jair Bolsonaro, whose backing among women for the October election is half that of his support from men because of comments denigrating women.

Investors have cheered recent signs of momentum for Alckmin, who pledges to curb government spending and restore confidence in a recovery from Brazil's worst recession in decades.

In comments to reporters on Thursday, Lemos said she was close to accepting an offer to run for vice president alongside Alckmin, the candidate for the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), after they had a frank discussion on Wednesday night.

"I am giving up re-election to the Senate for the sake of the greater good," she said. "This is quite far along, and we could have a decision as soon as tomorrow."

"It's official," Marcus Pestana, secretary general of the PSDB, told Reuters in a text message later on Thursday.

The Progressistas are part of a five-party centrist bloc that endorsed Alckmin last week, giving him a leading share of free TV and radio advertising. Those campaign resources, which are tied to an electoral coalition's representation in Congress, added to expectations that his poll numbers would get a lift once the campaign formally starts in two weeks.

A June survey by pollster Datafolha showed Alckmin had just 6 percent of voter support, far behind Bolsonaro, a nationalist who has capitalized on voter anger with political corruption and leads with 17 percent.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain and apologist for Brazil's 1964-1985 military government, has struggled to forge alliances with major parties, partly because of a track record of offensive comments about women, homosexuals and racial minorities.

He said last year that having a daughter, his fifth child after four boys, was a "weakness."

In 2003, Bolsonaro pushed a congresswoman and told her: "I would never rape you because you do not deserve it."

He repeated the comment in 2014 in the chamber and as a result is facing trial on charges of inciting rape.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Brad Haynes and Peter Cooney)

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Reuters