What if the Democrats nominate an all-Clinton ticket? Could they nominate Hillary for President and Bill for VP? At first glance this seems almost like a dream ticket, although it is by no means obvious that Bill would be interested in playing second fiddle when he has lead the orchestra for so long. More interestingly, is it even allowed by the Constitution?
I am no legal scholar, but the situation seems unclear and would almost certainly end up in a Supreme Court case. There are three constitutional amendments involved and, as is often the case, the precise wording of these amendments leads to uncertainty.
The 22nd Amendment says that Bill can’t be elected to the Presidency again after having served twice. But can he succeed to the Presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment? That isn’t the same thing either operationally or legally, even though the net effect is the same. The 12th Amendment compounds the confusion. It defines the eligibility rules for VP. The candidate must be eligible to hold the office of President. Note that it doesn’t speak to how he attains that office. This amendment also adds another nuance. If both candidates on the ticket are from the same state, one of them will lose the votes of the state’s electors. But that is easily overcome. Dick Cheney did that in 2000 when he moved from George W. Bush’s home state of Texas to his previous home in Wyoming.
So perhaps this intriguing ticket might pass muster legally. Politically however, it is a fascinating possibility regardless of which political party you support.
More generally, I am personally conflicted by the 22nd Amendment. Certainly we don’t want an effective monarchy but do we really want to exclude the most obviously qualified candidates? A reasonable compromise has been proposed and I like it. Ex-Presidents should become lifetime members of the U.S. Senate, thereby continuing to provide us with their knowledge and expertise. This would require yet another amendment, the wording of which would no doubt cause future scholarly dispute.