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  5. Biden easily won Virginia in the 2020 presidential election. But things look a lot different this year.

Biden easily won Virginia in the 2020 presidential election. But things look a lot different this year.

John L. Dorman   

Biden easily won Virginia in the 2020 presidential election. But things look a lot different this year.
  • Virginia is a foundational piece of President Joe Biden's road map for winning a second term.
  • However, recent polling in the state shows Biden and Trump tied or nearly tied among voters.

In 2020, it was a foregone conclusion that Joe Biden would win Virginia in that year's presidential contest.

Four years earlier, Donald Trump lost the state to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, even as he captured the White House. Trump never built firm political footing in Virginia, and his unpopularity there fueled major Republican losses in state legislative races in 2017 and 2019 — especially in suburban swing districts.

Biden's considerable standing among Black voters, independents, and voters aged 18 to 29 buoyed the onetime vice president to a huge 10-point victory over Trump in Virginia in 2020.

But as the 2024 contest enters its critical summer stretch, recent polling shows Biden and Trump are now deadlocked in Virginia, a development that has major implications for both candidates.

Will Biden have to spend time campaigning in a state that many he already had in the bag? Is Trump getting a third look from voters who previously rejected him twice?

Here's a look at the state of the race in Virginia, where Biden holds some significant advantages ahead of November:

Why is Biden lagging in Virginia?

The latest Fox News survey of registered Virginia voters showed Biden and Trump tied with 48% support, while Biden held a one-point lead (42% to 41%) when the race included third-party candidates. A Roanoke College poll taken last month showed Biden and Trump tied at 42% support among likely voters, with 8% of respondents indicating that they would back independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

These numbers represent a softening on Biden's part, as he won 54% of the state's votes in 2020, compared to Trump's 44%.

In the Fox News poll, Biden had a 42% favorability rating and a 43% job approval rating, which align with many of his national polling figures. While Virginia has largely trended Democratic in recent years, Biden's numbers are a reminder that it is not a reliably blue state, but one with a blue tinge. (Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's election in 2021 reflects that.)

While Virginia voters give Biden high marks on issues like climate change, abortion rights, and election integrity, it is Trump who comes out on top on issues like the economy, the Israel-Hamas war, and immigration.

Since the latter three issues routinely rank as some of voters' biggest concerns, this has allowed Trump to poll competitively with Biden in Virginia.

The Fox News poll also showed Trump winning an unusually high 25% of Black voters, a figure that if realized would represent a modern record for a GOP presidential nominee in the state. And the survey showed no polling gap between voters aged 18 to 29 and those aged 65 years and older, with the candidates tied at 48% among both age groups.

What boosts Biden's chances in the state?

In recent years, Democrats have solidified their support in Virginia's most populous regions — from Northern Virginia to the Richmond metropolitan area and down to Hampton Roads. These areas contain scores of suburban communities where moderates from both parties, as well as independents, generally decide statewide elections.

Many of these voters tend to lean toward Biden, given their most recent voting trends.

In the Fox News poll, Biden led Trump among independents (45% to 43%) despite his diminished standing in the state. And Biden still retained robust majorities from college-educated voters (56%) and suburban women (58%) — blocs crucial for the president and down-ballot Democrats.

And in Northern Virginia — an electoral gold mine for Democrats — Trump remains unpopular. If turnout is high in the region, Trump must post massive numbers in rural Virginia and downstate exurbs to win.

Youngkin, in a recent Fox News interview, said the recent polling numbers meant Virginia would be "in play" in November.

But surveys closer to Labor Day will likely offer a clearer sense of the true nature of Virginia's competitiveness, as many voters remain tuned out of the election — while some who are currently leaning toward third-party candidates may return to Biden's fold.