This is how many terms a US president can serve - and if Donald Trump could stay for a third term

Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 10:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 10:24 am
Donald Trump is running for a second term as US President (Getty Images)
Donald Trump is running for a second term as US President (Getty Images)

Donald Trump will be vying with Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden to clinch the US presidency. 

A victory for Trump would mean a second four-year term in charge of the land of the free. 

But just how long could the divisive leader be in charge if he was to have a second victory? 

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How long can a US president serve? 

The 22nd amendment of the United States of America constitution, ratified in 1951, states that: “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”

If a vice president or any senior politician steps in for a president during their term and goes on to serve two years of that presidency, they are only allowed to be re-elected once. 

This would mean that current president, Donald Trump, could serve a maximum of eight years as the US president. 

Has this always been the case? 

No, prior to the 22nd amendment, US presidents could serve beyond the two-term limit. 

President Franklin D Roosevelt served four terms from 1933 to 1945, dying a short time into his fourth term. It’s believed that the 22nd amendment was introduced in reaction to Roosevelt’s lengthy presidency. FDR is the only president to serve more than two full terms. 

By serving beyond the two terms the wartime leader broke an unwritten rule of only serving two terms. 

The two-term time span dates back to first president George Washington who refused to serve a third term despite pressure from his peers. 

In reference to a third term, the American founding father said he did not wish to be “charged with concealed ambition”.

Trump 2024

Despite the 22nd amendment, Donald Trump has previously inferred that he would consider running for a third term. 

In 2019 the 45th president posted a picture of a placard emblazoned with ‘Trump, Keep America Great, 2024’, apparently unveiling a desire to run beyond the two-term limit. 

The Republican candidate for the 2020 election has since claimed he was joking, telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd: "I only joke, I only joke… I joke and I say watch, I will drive Chuck Todd crazy."

He added: "I said in a speech recently, I said watch, we'll drive the media crazy, let's go for a third term and then a fourth. And some of the media said he is going to do it.”

That doesn’t mean that Americans definitely won’t be seeing trump on the ballot paper in 2024. If the current president lost the 2020 election, he could run for a second term in 2024. 

Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump are also popular picks among Republican voters according to a 2020 poll. 

Twenty-nine per cent of Republican respondents to a poll asking who they’d like to see represent the Republicans at 2024 election opted for Trump Jr, while 16% opted for Ivanka Trump.