Are there any rules that would prevent the spouse of a sitting US President from running for office themselves? For example, if Michelle Obama wanted to run for President in the 2016 election, could she do so?


2 Answers 2


There aren't many rules around who can run for President, and your spouse's job is not among them.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 says:

No Person except a natural born Citizen... shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Michelle Obama was born in DeYoung, Illinois (natural born citizen), is 51 years old (>= 35), and presumably has been a resident for the last 14 years (Barack Obama was eligible, and she's lived here since).

The Twenty-second Amendment adds:

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.

Michelle certainly hasn't been elected to the office yet, or held it, or acted as it for any length of time. While there would likely be some people who will try to make the claim that electing Michelle would be the same as electing Barack for a third term, there's no legal basis for that.

There's two more minor qualifiers that are very rarely relevant. There is a clause in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution which allows the Senate to disqualify someone who was impeached from holding any further public office. However, Michelle has not been impeached and holds no office from which she could be. Even if Barack was impeached, that wouldn't affect her ability to run.

There's also a clause in the 14th Amendment which prohibits anyone who held office and then rebelled from holding office again without Congressional approval. Again, she holds no office, so even if she were to lead a rebellion, she would not be disqualified on this front.

Therefor, nothing stops Michelle Obama from running for President now (while her husband holds office) or later (as Hillary Clinton is doing).

  • There are also various provisionsof criminal law that purport to deny convicts of any future office under the US; treason is among them. Not sure if they'd hold up for elected office, but they're there.
    – cpast
    Nov 25, 2015 at 16:17
  • 1
    @cpast - They'd probably hold up for elected offices in general, but probably not for Constitutionally-created ones (President, Senator, Representative). No authority is given to Congress to modify the requirements to be President, otherwise they would be able to pass a "Must belong to party ______" bill (or X religion, or X race, ...).
    – Bobson
    Nov 25, 2015 at 20:18
  • Would there be provisions which could prevent someone effectively becoming president for life, by having two terms, then his wife having two terms, then his children (or better yet, his amnesiac father-in-law in severe mental decline who can be more easily controlled), but he still calling all the shots from the background?
    – vsz
    Jan 17, 2023 at 8:29
  • @vsz - Only that that person would need to get each of those people A) elected, and B) willing to let them make decisions. The easier B is, the harder A is.
    – Bobson
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:29

Yes, she could run. There are no rules preventing it.


Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets the requirements to hold office. A president must:

  • be a natural-born citizen of the United States;[note 1]
  • be at least thirty-five years old;
  • have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.

A person who meets the above qualifications is still disqualified from holding the office of president under any of the following conditions:

  • Under the Twenty-second Amendment, no person can be elected president more than twice. {{ + some other minor technicalities }}
  • Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, upon conviction in impeachment cases, the Senate has the option of disqualifying convicted individuals from holding other federal offices, including the presidency.
  • Under Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, no person who swore an oath to support the Constitution, and later rebelled against the United States, can become president. However, this disqualification can be lifted by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.
  • 1
    How does this answer the question? Did you mean "No", or is there something in there that disqualifies her? And even if you meant "No", you should explain why they don't apply to her.
    – Bobson
    Nov 25, 2015 at 3:16
  • 5
    @bobson this answers the title of the question (which actually contradicts the body of the question)
    – user1530
    Nov 25, 2015 at 5:44
  • 1
    That so confusing it's not even funny. The answer should address the requirements specifically. Nov 25, 2015 at 8:41
  • @blip correct. .
    – user4012
    Nov 25, 2015 at 9:27
  • 3
    @Bobson - the correct answer to the subject is "yes". the correct answer to th body is "no". There's no way they can be contradictier than they are now.
    – user4012
    Nov 25, 2015 at 14:10

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