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Can Mike Pence convince women it’s OK to vote for a misogynist?

In the days before the first presidential debate, the Trump campaign saw a glimmer of hope. For months, the Republican nominee had been lagging in the polls with women, a crucial cohort in national elections. But as Hillary Clinton lost some of her support nationally in early September, her advantage among women all but evaporated. Polls showed that Donald Trump had pulled almost even with the Democratic nominee among women. Days before the debate, he was down just five points.

Then, at the debate, Trump rattled off some acerbic comments about Rosie O’Donnell and took the bait when Clinton mentioned Alicia Machado, the 1996 Miss Universe whom Trump had called “Miss Housekeeping” and ridiculed for gaining weight. In three days, Clinton had regained her 20-point lead with women.

Trump, it seems, is incapable of restraining himself from insulting and alienating women. That’s why he needs Mike Pence. At Virginia’s Longwood University tonight, expect the Indiana governor to turn on the charm. If any politician can appeal to Republican women, it’s Pence. It’s not just that he has a wife of over 30 years, a squeaky clean personality, and a photogenic smile. As an evangelical Christian, he also fervently opposes abortion. With Trump avoiding the topic altogether, Republican women may welcome Pence’s strong views on the subject.

If he fails to win Republican women over, Trump could be in real trouble. According to Politico, “Trump is losing educated white women to Hillary Clinton by a staggering 30 points, 57 to 27 percent.” Four years ago, Romney won the same demographic by 6 points. In order to cobble together a decent showing on November 8, Trump needs at least some of them on his side. And Mike Pence, believe it or not, is pretty much his best shot at winning them over.