President Obama leads presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the critical battleground state of Virginia, according to a Washington Post poll released on Thursday.

Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 44 percent, according to the poll.

Virginia was a reliably Republican state in presidential elections until 2008, when Obama defeated Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBooker to vote against Tillerson Earnest: GOP intellectually dishonest on Manning pardon Trump could mean new momentum for drug imports MORE (R-Ariz.) by 6 percent. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are focusing on the swing state this week.

Romney received the endorsement of Rep. Michele BachmannMichele BachmannWhy Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog Will Trump back women’s museum? Michele Bachmann on Trump victory: ‘God did this’ MORE (R-Minn.) at a campaign stop there on Thursday, where he was joined by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whom many view as a potential vice presidential candidate.

On Saturday the president and first lady will officially launch the Obama campaign in Richmond at a rally at Virginia Commonwealth University. The president will be introduced by VCU’s head basketball coach, Shaka Smart, 35, according to a report from Ryan Noble, NBC’s political reporter in Virginia.

Smart led the VCU Rams to an unlikely Final Four birth in the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament, and is wildly popular in the state after declining offers from bigger schools to remain in Virginia.

Obama leads by 18 percent among female voters and by 23 percent among “moderates” in Virginia. The poll also found that adding McDonnell to the ticket would do little to boost Romney’s chances there – nearly 70 percent of Virginians said it would make no difference to them if McDonnell was the GOP vice presidential candidate, 11 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for Romney, and 19 percent said it would make them more likely to vote for Obama.

A Public Policy Polling survey released on Wednesday had a similar finding, with Obama leading by 8 percent with or without McDonnell on the other side.

Obama’s job approval rating in Virginia is better than the national average, with 53 percent saying they approve versus 44 percent who disapprove.

Virginia is one of 12 swing states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election.