Requirements to be President

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Just who can run for president?

Ted Cruz

2016 Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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There are only a few legal requirements for someone who wants to run for president. Those requirements include: he or she must be a natural born citizen of the U.S., must be at least 35 years old and must have been living in the U.S. for at least 14 years. The reason a candidate must live in the U.S. for 14 years is so that he or she has firsthand knowledge of the issues faced by Americans. Here is a closer look at the requirements for presidential candidates.

The Constitution

The Constitution makes it clear who is eligible to be a presidential candidate, stating that any person wishing to run must be a natural born citizen. Meaning, immigrants cannot run no matter how many years they have lived in the United States. A person is considered a natural born citizen if he or she is born abroad to American citizens. Only one of the candidate's parents has to be an American citizen for the candidate to also be considered an American citizen and be eligible to run.

For example, Ted Cruz can run for president in 2016 even though he was born in Canada and his father is from Cuba. Cruz can run because his mother is from Delaware. In March 2015, Cruz announced that he is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Other Presidency Limitations

The Constitution has a few other limitations and requirements on who can run and how many terms can be served. During the 1944 election, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was about to be elected for a fourth consecutive term, Republican nominee Thomas E. Dewey pushed for an amendment that would limit presidents to two terms. "Four terms, or sixteen years, is the most dangerous threat to our freedom ever proposed," Dewey said while announcing his support for the amendment. Roosevelt won the fourth term, but died in office the following year. In 1947, a Republican-controlled Congress approved the amendment. That 22nd Amendment, which limits the president to two terms, was ratified in Feb. 1951.

However, there is nothing in the Constitution about a president later on becoming First Lady or First Man, which would be the case if Hillary Clinton were elected president in 2016. Former President Bill Clinton would be First Man. Hillary Clinton announced her bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president in April 2015. This was her second attempt at the nomination, after losing to Barack Obama in 2008.

If someone serves more than two years as president who was not elected, such as Lyndon B. Johnson, then he or she can only be re-elected once. Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963. He was allowed to run once, the following year, winning by a landslide with 61% of the vote.

Finally, the Senate has the authority to ban an impeached president from running again for the presidency. This is covered in Article 1, Section 3, Clause 7 of the Constitution.

Not Required, but Expected

Although not legal requirements, most Americans look for certain traits in their presidential candidates. A felon has never been elected president, for example. Most presidents have families and are religious. Military and previous public office experience are also common for many presidents.

If a candidate has public speaking skills, thatâÂÂs a plus, especially in televised debates. John F. Kennedy got the attention of the nation in 1960, when he appeared alongside Richard Nixon in the debates on television. Kennedy looked more comfortable and confident than Nixon. Charisma goes a long way, too, such as Bill Clinton breaking out his saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show in June 1992, during his campaign.

Also, presidential campaigns are expensive, so a candidate needs to be wealthy or, at least, have the ability to raise a lot of money during his or her campaign. An entire presidential campaign can cost between $700 million and $1 billion. While much of this comes from fundraising, candidates typically still finance a big portion of their campaign, especially in the early days of a run.


Source: Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committee

by Jennie Wood
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