“Turnout is going to be very important,” insisted pollster and Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, pointing to party efforts in the state targeting heavily African American areas where Biden won the 2020 presidential election by large margins.
Recent polling by Pew Research Center indicates Biden’s approval rating with black voters has fallen 18 percentage points nationally to 67% since July, prompting concerns among Democrats as the Virginia race tightens.
A Wason Center poll between Sept. 27-Oct. 1 shows former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe confronting an enthusiasm gap in the state, where he is locked in a tight race against Republican Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe’s lead has collapsed by more than half since August.
According to the survey, Republican-likely voters lead their Democratic counterparts 61% to 55%, with respondents expressing that they are “very enthusiastic” about casting a ballot in the Nov. 2 race.
The Democratic Party is trying to narrow this, leveraging a cast of boldfaced Party names to stump for McAuliffe over the coming weeks in places where the Democratic candidate’s support is strongest.
First lady Jill Biden is scheduled to travel on Friday to Henrico County outside of Richmond, where 64% voted for Biden compared to 35% who supported former President Donald Trump. On Sunday, Stacey Abrams will lead a “souls to the polls” event in Norfolk, which voted 72% to 26% for Biden. Both areas have significant black populations, according to U.S. Census data.
According to an August survey by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center, McAuliffe does best against Youngkin in the Richmond area, 48% to 40%; Hampton Roads, 52% to 41%; and in Northern Virginia, 59% to 33%. His support among black voters is 86%.
“We are facing a lot of headwinds from Washington, as you know. The president is unpopular today, unfortunately, here in Virginia, so we got to plow through,” McAuliffe said last week during a private call with supporters.
Biden won the 2020 presidential election in Virginia by 10 percentage points against former President Donald Trump and stumped for McAuliffe this summer. But the former governor’s comments suggest he no longer views Biden as a boost.
Black voters have been one of the most reliable Democratic voting blocs for decades. But even a minor erosion of support could spell problems for Democrats in next year's midterm elections. Trump won nearly 1 in 5 black men last year, according to exit polls, though black women largely remained steadfast for Biden.