Assume we have a very unpopular pair of president and vice president A, B. Now A is facing an election to be re-elected. Can A just quit his/her job to let B become the president? If A, B's personal interests are highly linked, then A could let B choose A to be the vice president again in future, and by letting B quit again, A would be president. So this process can go on forever. Is there any logical mistake in my reasoning? I ask because obviously no one did this in history ever. Assume quite of few of the presidents are very intelligent, greedy, authoritarian people, then this seems a legtimate solution to become the de facto life time president of United States.

  • Does B get to choose his Vice President? Doesn't the speaker of the house just become the Vice President automatically? Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 3:52
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    There's a hard limit on the number of terms a president can be in power, so any scheme like that would be stopped by the limit. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Tyler
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 4:00
  • @Tyler: My limited understanding is the clause only restricted the number of terms a president can be elected. Since A was only been elected once and did not need election to come in power afterwards, I think this scheme should go fine. The catch phrase is "shall be elected to the office of the President more than once". Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 6:28
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    @KeshavSrinivasan: I think this is false - Ford's vice president was Nelson Rockefeller, who was never the speaker of the house. Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 6:32
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    I looked it up, and section 2 of the 25th Amendment says this: "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress." So the scheme could only be executed if Congress is an accomplice to it. Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 6:49

2 Answers 2


You seem to be assuming that the President resigning means the Vice President starts a new four-year term. That's not how it works: if the President resigns, the Vice President serves out the term, but when the original term is up, there are elections. That's why none of the Presidents who have left office mid-term have changed the US election cycle: when Nixon resigned in 1974 (the one president to have resigned), the next election didn't change to 1978, but rather stayed at 1976 where it'd be if Nixon hadn't resigned. Ford only got two and a half years as President.

So, your scheme wouldn't work: the President and VP could resign as much as they want, but when the elected term expired, there would be new elections and they'd both get kicked out for making fools of themselves (leaving out that the Senate wouldn't give its advice and consent to the old President as new VP, and if the President and VP tried this they'd both find themselves impeached for deciding to mess around with weird governmental procedures instead of doing their job, they would have no chance of winning reelection and couldn't even theoretically win more than four times together).

Also, I think the Supreme Court would likely read the 22nd Amendment as applying to the Vice President as well (the 12th Amendment says that the VP must be constitutionally eligible to assume the office of President; there could be a case made that that means they must be eligible to be elected). But the main thing is that the VP does not get a new four-year term when the President leaves office early.

  • @Bombyxmori if you're asking about the Underwoods, you should probably ask on movies.stackexchange.com
    – user1530
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 16:45
  • Actually, the United States has had two presidents who were not constitutionally eligible to be president. Chester Alan Arthur was not a "natural born citizen" (he was not born in the United States to a father and mother who were also Americans); he was elected vice president. When the president was assassinated, he served out the remainder of the term as acting President. The other president to not be a "natural born citizen" was elected as President, and later re-elected.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:23
  • It seems that there are only two bodies with the authority to refuse in ineligible presidential candidate -- the College of Electors, and the House of Representatives (which reads the Electors' votes). The members of the College of Electors are allegedly bound by state laws; it does not have enough permanence to have rules for verifying candidate eligibility. Similarly, the House of Representatives acts as a rubber stamp for the College of Electors. The United States has refused to recognize anyone as having standing to sue against an allegedly ineligible presidential candidate.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:31
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    @Jasper You don't need American parents to be a natural-born citizen. The claim for Arthur was that he was born in Canada; he maintained that he was born in the US, there were no good records either way, but if he was born in Vermont he was automatically a citizen. Not sure who else you're talking about.
    – cpast
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 23:42
  • If someone were to win the VP nod, the President-elect withdrew before inauguration, and four years later one ran and won again as VP, and again had the President-elect drop out, one would never have been "elected" President; one would thus remain eligible for election despite having already served 8 years. Until someone is elected President at least once the 22nd Amendment wouldn't limit how many years they could serve as President.
    – supercat
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 23:57

No, there is no rule or anything preventing the President from just quitting.

Why don't Presidents quit, even when they are unpopular? A few reasons:

1. Incumbent Advantage An incumbent president nearly always wins. It is highly unlikely that an incumbent will be lose to a challenger. Even when a president is unpopular, odds are they will win their re-election.

2. Experience By the time someone becomes president, they are a highly skilled politician. Even if they are unpopular, they know how to handle unpopularity and win elections.

3. Rewards of Office There are rewards for office that are hard to give up. Air Force One, the White House, and of course all the prestige and power that come up with the position. Why give it up just because you will eventually lose it?

Each President may have their own reasons, but these are some common ones.

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