The received wisdom on executive–legislative relations in multiparty presidential systems is that the size of the president's majority in Congress is the key factor explaining governance patterns, particularly the president's legislative success. However, in many cases presidents enjoying a nominal majority have been unable to pass legislation and have faced institutional instability. The article departs from a conventional definition of divided government and focuses on the preference incongruence between the governing coalition and the floor of Congress. It argues that the ideological distance between the floor and the coalition is a key factor explaining the president's cost of governing (which includes factors such as the distribution of cabinet portfolios and budgetary transfers to coalition partners). The article provides an empirical test with data from Brazil that find that the greater the ideological incongruence, the higher the cost of governing for the president.