How Many Terms Did Barack Obama Serve?

Why So Many People Thought Obama Could Have Won a Third Term

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama. Mark Wilson / Getty Images News

President Barack Obama served two terms in the White House and ended up being more  popular than his predecessor, George W. Bush. But that doesn't mean Obama could have run for a third term, as some conspiracy theorists suggested.

How many terms did Barack Obama served? Two. Obama's last day in office was Jan. 20, 2017. He served eight years in the White House and was succeeded by Republican President Donald Trump. Obama was likely to go back to teaching law, writing another book, playing more golf and heading out on the speaking circuit, which is fairly lucrative. Former presidents have raked in millions of dollars after leaving the White House.

U.S. presidents are limited to serving only two full terms, equal to eight years, in the White House under the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.  

Conspiracy Theory About How Many Terms Obama Could Serve

Conservative critics of Obama began raising the prospect of a third term early in his tenure in the White House. Their motivation was the raise money for conservative candidates by way of scare tactics.

In fact, subscribers to one of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich's email newsletters were warned of a specific scenario that must have seem rather frightening: President Barack Obama running for, and winning, a third term as president in 2016.

Obama won re-election to a second term in 2012. Conspiracy theorists believed in the unlikely scenario that the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting presidents to two terms in office somehow would be wiped from the books by the time the 2016 campaign rolled around. 

Where the Email Came From

The email from Gingrich Marketplace, which is managed by the conservative group Human Events, claimed Obama would win a second term and then go on to win a third term that would begin in 2017 and last through 2020 despite a constitutional ban on such a thing.

"The truth is, the next election has already been decided. Obama is going to win. It's nearly impossible to beat an incumbent president. What's actually at stake right now is whether or not he will have a third-term," wrote an advertiser to subscribers of the list. The message itself was not written by the former 2012 presidential hopeful.

The email neglected to mention the 22nd Amendment, which reads in part: "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice ..."

Questions About Number of Obama Terms in Mainstream Media

Still, even some pundits writing in the mainstream media raised the question of whether Obama could serve a third term, depending on world events at the time a second term would expire. Faheem Younus, a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland and founder of the website, wrote in The Washington Post that attacking Iran could give Americans reason to keep Obama as president for a third term.

"Wartime presidents can sell a Double Whopper to a vegetarian," Younus wrote. "As the festinate decision of bombing Iran turns into a global conflict, don't expect our constitutional law professor turned president to decline his party's suggestion: if it can be ratified; it can be repealed.

"Repealing the 22nd Amendment - which some argue was never vetted publicly - is not unthinkable."

Didn't happen. And the answer to the question, How many terms has President Barack Obama served? remained the same. Two.

Editor's Note: If you considered a Joe Biden presidency an extension of Obama's, which many did, you can make the case that Obama's policies would have been awarded a third term by voters. But the vice president under Obama weighed a run for the White House and opted against it, ruling out entirely the notion of any third term for Obama.