As Joe Biden was announced president-elect of the US, many celebrated a victory for the Democrats. Hot on the heels of this, for some, is the question, can Barack Obama run for president again in 2024? After his two consecutive terms, it’s unclear to some if this is even possible. Let’s find out.

Can former presidents of the United States run for office again?

The 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution states US Presidents can serve a maximum of two terms in the White House.

Congress passed the amendment in 1947 after Franklin D Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections and died of a cerebral haemorrhage just months into his fourth term. 

1936: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 – 1945) the 32nd President of the United States from 1933-45. A Democrat, he led his country through the depression of the 1930’s and World War II, and was elected for an unprecedented fourth term of office in 1944. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

The states collectively ratified the amendment in 1951 and it has been law ever since. As a result, a president can only “run again” once.

So the answer to the first question is yes. Sitting presidents or, in theory, a former president out of office – for example, Donald Trump – could run for office a second time.

Can Barack Obama run again in 2024?

No, Obama can’t run for president again in 2024. The simple reason is he has already done it. Obama served two terms as POTUS. These were 2009 to 2013 and 2013 to 2017.

Because of the 22nd Amendment, Obama can’t run for a third term in office. The same is the case for living former presidents Bill Clinton (Democrat) and George W Bush (Republican).

Jimmy Carter only served one term so, in theory, he could run again. However, since he’s 96 it’s unlikely he will! Trump, on the other hand, could. Some think he will; others are sure he won’t.

Simple, right? Well, not exactly. Things get complicated when amendments to the Constitution seem to contradict each other. 

Could Barack Obama serve as vice-president? 

This certainly would be a turn up for the books – if Obama/Biden became Biden/Obama. But is it possible? Unfortunately, the answer is not quite as simple as the question.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – OCTOBER 31: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former U.S. President Barack Obama make a stop at a canvass kickoff event at Birmingham Unitarian Church on October 31, 2020 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Biden is campaigning with former President Obama on Saturday in Michigan, a battleground state that President Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Since 1985, there has been debate about how the 22nd Amendment works with the 12th Amendment. 

Why is it ambiguous?

On the one hand, the 12th Amendment says you can only be vice-president if you’re allowed to be president. 

On the other hand, the 22nd Amendment says you can’t be elected president more than twice. 

This seems simple enough. But it doesn’t say anything about being elected vice-president. It also doesn’t say anything about attaining that office by other means besides being “elected”.

This is where it gets complicated, and hypothetical

So it looks as though Obama could, in theory, run to for vice-president. If he did, and Biden passed away during his term, what then? Could Obama return to the Oval Office via this constitutional loophole?

Probably not. The 12th Amendment, which dates to 1804, states: “No person constitutionally ineligible to the office of president shall be eligible to that of vice-president of the United States.”

Meanwhile, some commentators are saying Obama has won a third term – via his “policies and his posture” – in the form of Joe Biden.

Eventually, the problem is a semantic one and has to do with the perceived differences in meaning between being president and being elected president. Eligibility is a grey area. Who knew?

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