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Coattails, Raincoats, and Congressional Election Outcomes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2019

Steven Rogers*
Saint Louis University


More than 60 years ago, Angus Campbell offered an explanation for why the president’s party regularly loses congressional seats in midterm elections. He argued that peripheral voters “surge” to the polls in presidential elections and support the president’s congressional co-partisans but “decline” to turn out in the midterm. In his turnout-based explanation for midterm loss, Campbell speculated that “bad weather or an epidemic may affect the vote” but largely dismissed weather’s utility to test his theory (Campbell 1960, 399). I revisit Campbell’s speculation and employ a new identification strategy to investigate the “surge and decline” account of midterm loss. I show that as the costs of voting increase—due to above-average rainfall on Election Day—the strength of the relationship between presidential and congressional voting weakens.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

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