The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says no person can serve as president more than twice. It’s not a limit on serving consecutive terms. You get eight years at most — total.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to announce his expected 2024 bid for president, his political network is already trying to exploit this requirement as a selling point against likely GOP rival Donald Trump.
If DeSantis is elected — and reelected in 2028 — he’d get up to eight years to make the executive branch his own, they say. If Trump wins another term, the most that he could offer is four more years.
Some donors are taking notice.
“It’s definitely on the radar for every single one of them,” said Ken Cuccinelli, who started a Super PAC, Never Back Down, aimed at supporting a DeSantis presidential bid. “I haven’t talked to anyone for whom that doesn’t make a very substantial difference.”
Cuccinelli said he saw firsthand how long it can take for a presidential administration to get its proverbial feet underneath it. He served in Trump’s Department of Homeland Security from 2019 to 2021. He said the Trump administration, which was famously prone to turnover, didn’t find the right staffers until Trump’s term was nearly over.
DeSantis gives donors the chance to get in on the ground floor of a potential administration that could be in power through 2032, Cuccinelli said. Barring a change to the Constitution, that’s not something Trump or his allies can offer.
“We need real leadership and Gov. DeSantis has shown the tremendous impact he can make in one term as governor of Florida,” wrote Gregory Cook in an emailed statement. Cook is the chairperson of the board of the wellness company doTERRA, and he gave DeSantis’ state political committee $1.3 million in February. (DeSantis could potentially use that money for a presidential run.)
“Just months into his second term, I am seeing even more impactful actions that the governor is making because he is building off of his previous successes. We need a president who has eight years to make deep and meaningful change,” Cook wrote.
Little has been said publicly by any of Trump’s GOP rivals about his inability to serve more than one more term. However, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, 51, another Republican in the nomination race, has called for a “new generation” of American leaders — a not-so-subtle nod to the fact that Trump would be 82 when his hypothetical 2024 term ends. (DeSantis is 44.)
It’s not clear that Trump’s limitations will be enough to convince key donors. This week, DeSantis got bad news on the financial front when The New York Times reported that hedge fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, who’s given DeSantis’ political committee nearly $11 million through the years, is undecided about the 2024 primary.
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The constitutional amendment limiting the number of times someone can serve as president was ratified in 1951. Since then, no one-term president has sought his former office the way Trump is doing this election cycle.
When asked about the political difficulty of running for president as a nonincumbent who can serve just one term, a Trump spokesperson took a shot at DeSantis.
“President Trump will not be beholden to the special interests and will do what is in the best interest of the American people,” said Steven Cheung, the Trump spokesperson. “Ron DeSantis is a creature of the swamp. President Trump will drain the swamp.”