US elections

What are the requirements to be US president according to the Constitution?

Constitutional rules prevented Arnold Schwarzenegger from trying for the White House and the Democrats from fielding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2020.

What are the requirements to be US president according to the Constitution?
CARLOS BARRIA REUTERS

US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will face the electorate on 3 November with the prize of the White House at stake in what has been to date a particularly bitter contest. In televised debates and on the campaign podiums Trump and Biden have fought a no-holds-barred contest for the Oval Office with insults and allegations the common currency of the race for the presidency so far. With only two days remaining until voters go to the polls, the veteran campaigners have been on a final push in battleground states in an attempt to drum up the key electoral votes needed to secure a four-year term as president.

Whoever comes out on top on election day, with national polls currently giving Biden a healthy lead over the incumbent Trump but the panorama far less clear-cut in most of the key states, one thing the winner can be assured of is his eligibility to hold the post of President of the United States.

Article II of the US Constitution lays out the legal requirements to run for the White House and they are fairly straightforward, as the Library of Congress summarizes: a presidential candidate must be a natural born citizen of the United States, have been a resident for 14 years, and be 35 years of age or older.

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These rules prevented Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born in Thal, Austria and served as Republican Governor of California between 2003 and 2011 from staging a tilt at the big chair and is also the reason the Democrats were unable to nominate 31-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a candidate to challenge Trump in the 2020 elections.

Washington and Woodhull in the history books

All of this proved no barrier to George Washington. The first President of the United States, who served from 1789 to 1797, was born in Virginia 57 years before assuming office unopposed.

Gender has perhaps surprisingly not been an historical obstacle to a pop at the presidency ether. In a time when universal suffrage was a distant dream, Victoria Woodhull made history when she became the first woman to run for the office in 1872 against Union Civil War General and incumbent Ulysses S. Grant.

Trump hints at third term bid

There are only three reasons for being denied the right of holding the office of president: impeachment, rebellion and already having served two terms in the White House - although Trump has intimated he has his eye on challenging that bit of small print should he prevail against Biden on 3 November.