How to Become President of the United States
The President of the United States is largely considered the most powerful person in the world.
Because of this, many people are very interested in becoming President.
While there isn’t a specific formula to use if you want to be elected President, there is a very specific process that you will need to follow in order to make this dream a reality. Remember that while doing these things is the formal process of attaining this office, they won’t by themselves get you elected. Check out our guide on becoming a politician to find out what you can do to improve your odds of one day getting elected to this prestigious office.
Meet the Qualifications
The first thing anyone must do on the journey towards becoming President is meet the basic qualifications of the office. The Constitution of the United States very clearly establishes three basic things all candidates must be:
A natural born citizen of the United States: This is the reason that Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been able to run for President despite his incredible success in the world of politics.
35 years of age: Unfortunately for all of us young guns out there, this age limit is unflinching. The youngest President to ever serve was Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when he took over after William McKinley’s assassination in 1901. The youngest President ever elected was John F. Kennedy, who was 43 at the time.
Been a resident of the United States for 14 years: These don’t have to have been 14 consecutive years or even the years prior to running for office. As long as you have been a resident of the US for a total of 14 years, you meet this requirement.
These requirements are set in Article 2 of the constitution, which established the Executive Branch of our government.
Before you can even think about filing candidacy papers, there are some big things that need to happen. This process will have to begin years, and ideally decades, before you first run.
Being a so called “career politician” is something that is viewed very negatively by the majority of the population. Having real world experience and handling problems that the middle class can relate to is one of the best ways to get the people to support you.
Do the things that any average person would do, but do them very well. Go to college, get a job, earn promotions, start a business, volunteer, etc. The more you do, the more likely you are to succeed when you first step into the political arena. Remember that having big accomplishments (like writing a bestselling book or running a billion dollar company) are some of the best ways to make a name for yourself and boost your campaign. While the average person may not be able to do those things, the average person won’t become president either.
Early Political Career
Without exception, all former US Presidents were Senators, Governors, Congressmen, or military generals before being elected. With this said, it is obvious that political success before your run for the top office is of critical importance. It won’t guarantee your success, but it will be a large factor.
The age of the military hero President has been winding down for nearly a century now. It once stood to reason that a successful military general would be the country’s leader. The most recent example of this is of course President Eisenhower. However, this has faded over time. As the country’s overall view of the military has dimmed slightly, as has the necessity for enlisted service in a Presidential candidate’s resume.
With that said, serving in the military is still a great way to boost the credibility of your campaign. It is a great place to start if you are young. Get your degree first and serve as an officer to boost your leadership ability.
Of course, serving in actual political offices is also incredibly important. Your career will likely begin in offices such as city council member or state legislator. In order to be taken seriously during your campaign though, you will need to hold national office or a state executive position. Run for governor of your state, or the national legislature (congress) before doing so. Here are some articles to get you started on this:
How to Become a Governor
How to Become a Senator
How to Become a Congressman
Testing Your Potential
Before you declare your candidacy, you should test the waters to make sure your campaign will have legs. Send some emails out to friends, family, and colleagues, asking them to fill out a form saying they would consider voting for you. Ask them to forward it to friends as well, and see how well it spreads. Look at using social media as well in a similar fashion.
Taking it one step further, you could begin to form Political Action Committees (PACs) and see if you can raise any money for your campaign. Raising campaign funds is a huge piece of running for any national office, and the Presidency is the best example of this. For example, President Obama raised right around $1 billion dollars for his 2012 campaign.
Become a Candidate
Once you are ready to declare your candidacy, you will unsurprisingly need to file some official paperwork. This will go to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). You must register as a candidate with this agency once you, or others on your behalf, have either raised or spent in excess of $5,000 on your campaign. You will have to file a Statement of Candidacy within fifteen days of hitting that fiscal amount, and a Statement of Organization shortly thereafter.
When you decide to make your announcement, make as a big of a deal out of it as possible. Send out press releases, do a press conference, leverage your social media accounts, send out letters, etc. The more initial press you get, the more traction you’ll be able to carry into the primaries.
Primaries and Caucuses
In order to receive your party’s official nomination for the Presidency, you will have to do very well in the primary elections and caucuses across the various states in our country. There are often times many levels of these, and each state does them a little bit differently.
As the various primary elections happen for you party across the different states, you will have to campaign in these locations. Some states you might be able to win very easily and won’t need to spend a lot of time campaigning in in order to win. Others may contain hard fought battles, and will require a large amount of campaigning to win over enough voters to take the state’s delegates to your party’s national convention.
National party conventions are a very old process that have been a major part of the process of electing a president for nearly two centuries.
Once the states’ primaries and caucuses are over, each party has a national convention. It is there that the party officially nominates a candidate for the Presidency. However, in most cases the candidate the party will pick has already been determined during the primary/caucus phase of the process.
In modern times, the national convention is more of a TV program than a political process. A candidate needs to shine on stage and in front of the camera during this convention to get the backing of his or her party.
The national presidential election in the US has always been a relatively complicated process that very few people fully understand. On election day, there really is two different votes happening simultaneously, and while they are both important to look at, only one determines who will become the next President.
When you go to the polls on that Tuesday, you are voting in the general election. Each citizen in the United States has a chance to vote.
While one might think that in a democratic system of government the general election would decide who will be the next President. However, that isn’t true in our government. It is actually possible for a candidate to win the popular vote and lose the election. The most recent (and controversial) example of this was the 2000 Presidential election in which George Bush won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by nearly half a million votes to Al Gore.
The Electoral College is the actual authority that decides who will be the next President of the United States. It consists of electors who are chosen by popular vote within each state. The number of electors are proportioned to states based on the amount of Representatives and Senators they have in Congress. Currently there are 538 electors in the Electoral College. This is because there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 Senators, and three additional electors given to the District of Columbia after the twenty third constitutional amendment was instituted.
In order to be elected President, a candidate must receive the majority of the electoral votes. To win a state’s electoral votes, the candidate must win a majority of the state’s popular vote. All states with the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska give all of their electoral votes to a single candidate.
The inauguration of the new President of the United States happens on the 20th of January following the election (or the 21st if the 20th is a Sunday). It is typically a massive nationally televised event in which the President is officially sworn into office and his or her four year term begins.
So if you can manage to get through that process, you will have successfully become President of the United States. It isn’t even a remotely easy thing to do. Only 44 people have done it in the history of our country. It is safe to say it is one of (if not the) hardest jobs to get in the world.
However, it is an incredibly opportunity to serve this great country, and make an impact on the entire world.