In the US, can a former president run for president again, at a later time?

Does it matter, whether his first presidency was one or two terms?

Note: This is inspired from the TV Series "Designated Survivor", talking about the Character "Moss". He is a former president, running again.

  • 2
    I believe its subtly mentioned that Moss retired after 1 term for personal reasons Jun 16, 2019 at 8:25
  • 34
    -1 for not reading the 22nd Amendment -- or at least giving no indication that you did, and didn't understand what was written.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 16, 2019 at 22:28
  • Only if he ran far enough and fast enough to get away the first time. :-) Jun 17, 2019 at 3:11
  • @RonJohn Since I am not a US citizen I am not too familiar with all the details of the US constitution and it's amendments. As said, I just watched said movie. I hope this counts as an apology.
    – hitchhiker
    Jun 18, 2019 at 19:54

4 Answers 4


Prior to the passage of the twenty-second amendment, Grover Cleveland served non-consecutive terms (and Franklin Delano Roosevelt served four terms). So clearly it was legal then.

The active portion of the amendment's text is:

Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

Section 2 is just about when the amendment will be considered ratified. That was satisfied, so we don't need to care about that or the unquoted portion of Section 1 (the one person covered under that is now dead).

So no person shall be elected more than twice. Nor may a person who was raised to the office from the vice-presidency for at least two years be elected more than once. The amendment says nothing about consecutive terms. It applies whether the person wants a third consecutive term or a non-consecutive term.

There is some dispute about whether someone could be appointed vice president after serving more than six years as president, as that wouldn't be elected. If so, presumably that person could serve almost four years. But there's an argument that that should not be allowed. That argument says that someone who has been president is no longer eligible or qualified to be president. Which makes sense but is not how the amendments literally read.

The basic problem there is that the twenty-second amendment talks only about election and doesn't prohibit people in the line of succession from taking office. Meanwhile, the twenty-fifth adds a new method of appointment for vice presidents without clarifying whether such appointees are limited by the twenty-second amendment.

The dispute is basically over whether they should read the provisions literally, in which case this is a loophole. Or should they naturally extend the various provisions to come up with a reasonable system, in which case they'd make some new rule, like no one who has already served six years or more as president is eligible to become president again. In which case this would be a presidential qualification and no one could be appointed or elected vice president who didn't meet it.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about the interpretation of the 12th and 22nd amendment has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Jun 18, 2019 at 18:41
  • Since you didn't ping me, I never saw before now your message in the chat saying "But the word electable is never used in either amendment, so it would seem irrelevant to this discussion." It is relevant to the extent that people argue that the authors of the amendment should have spoken of election if that was what they meant, because that argument is ill founded, because "eligible" does speak of election.
    – phoog
    Nov 15, 2020 at 5:53

The US has a presidential term limit of two terms; it doesn't matter whether or not the terms are consecutive. If you've served two terms, you can never again be President; if you haven't served two terms, you're perfectly able to run again.

  • 7
    See Grover Cleveland, the 22th and 24th President of the US
    – divibisan
    Jun 15, 2019 at 20:24
  • 15
    @divibisan Grover Cleveland served both his terms before the 22nd amendment introduced term limits for presidents. So he is not really relevant in this case.
    – Philipp
    Jun 16, 2019 at 9:44
  • 1
    This is not correct. A citizen can serve as US president for a total of 10 years minus a day. That's three terms. Jun 16, 2019 at 23:27
  • 8
    @Michael_B Ten years minus a day isn't three terms according to any normal rules of rounding, and rounding error is irrelevant to the main point of the question.
    – cpast
    Jun 17, 2019 at 1:49
  • 1
    (In all honesty, I feel that I'm 75% correct here, so I'm open to another interpretation. But I don't think the "rules of rounding" is very persuasive.) Jun 17, 2019 at 1:58

In theory, a 1 term president could. In practice, the only living 1 term former president is Jimmy Carter who is 94 years old so while there is probably no legal reason why he could not run it seems rather unlikely that he would want to.


As was stated before, you have to read the 22nd amendment in the context of the 12th. If you have been elected to the Presidency twice (consecutive, non-consecutive), you can't run again.

You also have to be eligible to be elected President to be VP. So no, even if Biden secures the nomination, he cannot choose Obama as his running mate.

Having said that, just as was said, ANY former President could compete for and win ANY position that sits in the line of succession. If it came to that issue, he or she would be skipped over, just as was the case with Kissinger, and was the case for Elaine Chao when she was secretary of Transportation.

Also, there are no actively serving members of the military who are in the line of succession. Read the legislation properly. Also, if a military reserve officer were mobilized, they wouldn't be placed in a position where it would be possible for them to get anywhere near the line of succession. I am a military reserve officer, I know what I'm talking about.

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