Before the presidential term limit, Franklin D. Roosevelt secured four presidential election victories: 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  George Washington established the precedent of serving only two terms when he left office in 1797.  This was tradition, but not the law of the land.

In 1940, FDR broke with tradition and ran for a third term.  At the time, the U.S. was dealing with the Great Depression and the possibility of entering World War II.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said at the 1940 Democratic National Convention, “This is no ordinary time.”

FDR not only won the 1940 election, but the 1944 election as well.  Let’s take a look at FDR’s four election wins.


1.) 1932 ELECTION

The Great Depression was the focus of the 1932 election.  The incumbent, Herbert Hoover, had lost the favor of the American people.  Hoover had not instituted many major government programs to help those suffering.  Instead, he suggested that individuals should work hard to fix their present situation.

FDR stepped in offering government support and federal programs.  He won with overwhelming support.

2.) 1936 ELECTION

During the 1936 election, the U.S. was still in the heart of the Great Depression.  Americans were not happy about the economy, but they felt that FDR was doing something to help them.  His New Deal programs were giving them hope, and they re-elected him in a landslide.

3.) 1940 ELECTION

History was made in the election of 1940 when FDR was elected to a third term as president.  Every president before followed the precedent established by George Washington and served a maximum of two terms.  FDR decided to run for a third term when it became clear the a second world war was in the works in Europe.

This election win was much closer than his previous two wins. But, for a third time, the American people elected FDR to be their chief executive.

4.) 1944 ELECTION

By 1944, FDR had been in office for twelve years.  Although this time had taken its toll on Roosevelt, he decided to run for a fourth term.  In the midst of World War II, he urged the American people to not “change horses in mid-stream.”

His opponent, New York governor Thomas Dewey, missed few opportunities to point out the tired appearance of FDR.  In the end, the voters showed faith and trust in the incumbent, and elected Roosevelt to a fourth term.

Just a few months into his fourth term, FDR passed away from a massive cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945.  Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency and led the country through World War II.  Upon assuming the presidency, Truman remarked, “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”


Months after FDR’s death, Republican members of Congress introduced an amendment to limit presidential terms.  The 22nd Amendment states that a person may serve a maximum of ten years as president (2 terms + 2 years of another president’s term).

In 1951, the states ratified the 22nd Amendment – almost four years after it was passed by Congress.  The 22nd Amendment sets a constitutional two-term limit on the president, ensuring that FDR is the only person to win four presidential elections.


Can’t get enough presidential election fun facts and figures?  Check out our Periodic Table of Presidential Elections in our shop.


National Constitution Center: FDR’s Third-term Election and the 22nd Amendment


FDR Library: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency

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