Presidential Term Limits

The Question:

Can a president serve more than two terms if they are not consecutive? For example, could former President Barack Obama Clinton have run for president again in 2016?

The Answer:

No. The 22nd Amendment, enacted after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president for the fourth time, imposes a two-term limit on presidential candidates and was established to formalize a tradition George Washington started by refusing to run for a third term in 1796.

The 22nd Amendment states that no person elected president and no person to hold the office of president for more than two years is allowed to be elected more than once more. It makes no difference whether the two terms are consecutive.

This amendment also makes it clear that if Vice President Al Gore had taken over for President Clinton during the first two years of Clinton's first term, then he would have only been allowed to run once more.

What's interesting about Clinton's situation is that the 22nd Amendment only makes two-term presidents ineligible to "be elected to the office of President." But is Clinton allowed to serve as president? For example, what if Clinton were the Democratic nominee for vice president, and his party won? If his candidate couldn't finish his/her term, could Clinton be president again? Or would he be unable to serve as vice president in the first place? For now, this is an unresolved question.

-The Editors