Hoping to insulate their contests from national politics, thirty-six states hold their gubernatorial elections in national midterm election years. Many scholars have assessed whether presidential evaluations nevertheless have an effect on these races, though findings have varied. We offer a new approach to examining this question, relying on underutilized state-level presidential approval data preceding 143 gubernatorial races across six national midterm election cycles. Accounting for the effects of state ideology, gubernatorial approval, campaign spending, state economic performance, and incumbency, we report that presidential approval has a positive and significant effect on the performance of the presidential party in gubernatorial races. The substantive effects are modest, though still potentially meaningful. In the primary specification, an additional six points of presidential approval is associated with about one additional point of gubernatorial vote share.
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This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.