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The Trump and Biden campaigns are already stopping in Hampton Roads. Here’s why.

Signs line the roadways in Chesapeake ahead of President Donald Trump's campaign visit to Greenbrier Farms on June 28.
Ryan Murphy
Signs line the roadways in Chesapeake ahead of President Donald Trump's campaign visit to Greenbrier Farms on June 28.

Presidential hopefuls are targeting suburban Virginia voters who have proven key to winning the state.

As this year’s presidential election heats up, national campaigns are sending high-profile visitors to rally voters in Hampton Roads.

Former president Donald Trump will stop in Chesapeake Friday for his first campaign appearance after Thursday evening’s debate with his Democratic opponent, President Joe Biden.

Biden’s wife Jill Biden, a common campaign surrogate, will be in Virginia Beach Thursday to stump for her husband ahead of the debate.

The biggest deciders of elections in Virginia over the last several years have been white women from the suburbs, making Hampton Roads a hot stop for presidential contenders.

These women are usually moderate conservatives, but as Virginia Wesleyan researcher Leslie Caughell told WHRO last year, they’re not committed to one party.

“This voting group seems much more likely to say ‘I'm going to buck my party here, acknowledging the fact that my values, my fundamental underlying values, haven't changed, that I don't think this Republican Party is capturing my conservatism.’” Caughell said.

Caughell said those female voters are especially sensitive to harsh rhetoric, something that helped push them away from Donald Trump.

Chesapeake, for instance, backed Trump in 2016, but swung heavily for Biden in 2020.

The same suburbs that rejected Trump in 2020 swung back to propel Republican Glenn Youngkin to victory when he ran for governor in 2021, making him the first Republican to win statewide office in Virginia since 2009.

Youngkin’s strategy was to shape a moderate image and distance himself from Trump while playing to the suburbs by emphasizing school issues. The governor has since cozied up to the former president and is scheduled to appear at Trump’s event in Chesapeake Friday.

Even though Youngkin’s remained reasonably popular across the state since his election, Republicans were unable to hold onto the suburbs.

In 2023, largely propelled by concerns about abortion access, Democrats took control of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. They did so primarily by capturing swing districts in suburbs around Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Despite that setback — and the fact that Virginia hasn’t voted for a Republican for President since 2004 — GOP strategists insist the state is in play this year.

Republican pollster Amanda Iovino said Wednesday Biden is losing ground with Black voters and women without college degrees compared to 2020.

“If you look at the trend lines in Virginia, it's more competitive than it was in 2020 and more than where we thought it would be this time last year,” Iovino said.

She expects campaign stops in Virginia from both sides will focus on the economy to win over women without college educations, who she says are particularly sensitive to economic pressures.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

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