McCain Rules Out One-Term Pledge. Again.

One Term Pledge?Politico is very excited to have a scoop: “Exclusive: No single-term pledge for McCain.” [Must credit Politico! -ed.]

John McCain stated unequivocally in an interview with Politico Wednesday that he would not pledge to serve only a single four-year term, rejecting a suggestion that some allies believe would

“No,” McCain said flatly, “I’m not considering it.”

This would be exciting news if it weren’t 1) obvious and 2) old.

If elected, McCain would be going on 76 years old at the point when he’d start a re-election campaign in earnest. He might well decide, at that point, that he doesn’t have another run in him. He may even suspect now that that’ll be the case.

But the political realities are that one simply does not announce that at the outset. For one thing, it’s conceivable that McCain will feel quite energetic four years from now and want to run again. Having run on a one-term pledge would be awkward at that point. More importantly, he’d be an instant lame duck. That’s the case, anyway, for second term presidents. But one doesn’t want to start out that way.

Indeed, if one Googles John McCain one term lame duck, one gets 37,000 results. Among them, this answer from a Republican primary forum way back in January:

“No, because I think then you’re the lame duck, you’re quacking on Inauguration Day,” he said. “But look, I would point out that when Ronald Reagan won the Cold War, he was in his second term older than me. I think that’s pretty good, isn’t it? Look, I’ve got the vigor. I’ve been – everybody has seen me here on the campaign trail. We work 16, 18 hours a day.”

He and his campaign have repeated that line repeatedly. Several pundits, notably Marc Ambinder and Peggy Noonan, have speculated for months that a one-term pledge might be an interesting way to neutralize the age issue. And McCain has acknowledged that he’ll have to evaluate his situation and that a second run wasn’t a slam dunk. But he’s repeatedly said he’s not going to make a one-term pledge.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Contra Noonan and friends, I still maintain that a one-term pledge accentuates his age, as the obvious first reaction to hearing that McCain would pledge such (not that he will) is that he is doing it because he would be too old to have a second term. Of course, if he will be too old to be president in 4 years, doesn’t that suggest that perhaps he is too old now?

  2. I agree with Steven and McCain. A one term pledge doesn’t neutralize the age issue and it does make you an instant lame duck. It also doubles down on the impact of the VP (for good or bad).

    Imagine Hillary looking at the 2008 race with sure knowledge that 2012 is going to be another open year. That would be the only positive I could see in McCain announcing a self imposed term limit.

  3. Floyd says:

    Historically we have had six presidents die in office and five others die within the following term. That’s eleven out of forty-two with one yet to be determined. More than “one in four”…
    Mortality ,then, comes with the territory and is practically reduced to a non-issue.