No one ever said running for president was easy, but the 2016 cycle has proven to be a humbling experience for even the most prepared candidates. No candidate escaped New Hampshire without scars from a process designed to test White House hopefuls' mettle. Donald Trump learned he couldn't ignore the mechanics, Ted Cruz found the limits of his message, and Jeb Bush was forced to embrace the sort of politics he was trying to avoid. Then there was Marco Rubio, whose poor debate performance drew sighs of relief from some Republicans that his weakness had be exposed before the general election, giving him a chance to recover and avoiding a meltdown before the Democratic nominee.
There is more in common between Trump and Bernie Sanders than either man might be willing to admit, TIME's Michael Duffy writes in this week's issue of the magazine. The outsiders are leading the charge against the established political order in both parties, and if Washington isn't careful, could upend the two-party divide as we know it.
John Kasich is retooling his "light and hope" message for South Carolina, preparing for an arsenal of attacks and making his case as a more electable alternative to his bombastic rivals. Promising not to be a "marshmallow" for attacks, he's laying the ground work to go negative if he has to.
Rubio is working to reset his campaign after a whiplash week that saw him as a potential New Hampshire primary victor followed by the debate and his fifth-place finish. The famously on-message candidate is working to grow more open with the press in the coming weeks.
Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina officially called it quits, as both were to be excluded from Saturday's debate. Sanders raises millions bashing the campaign finance system. And President Barack Obama returns to his political roots.
Here are your must-reads:
The Great GOP Humbling of 2016
The Republican campaign trail has been brutal and unforgiving. And it has only just begun [TIME]
John Kasich Looks to Retool ‘Light and Hope’ For South Carolina
It's a whole new ballgame in the south [TIME]
The Trump and Sanders Show: Why Two Outsiders Are Winning
TIME's Michael Duffy on the odd couple turning conventional political wisdom on its head
Marco Rubio Charges Ahead After Rough Finish in New Hampshire
TIME's Tessa Berenson on his plan to get back on track
The War Over the Pentagon Budget
What side you’re on may depend on what building you’re in, TIME's Mark Thompson writes
President Obama: ‘I Still Believe in a Politics of Hope’
Obama returns to where it all started as he looks to cement his legacy, TIME's Maya Rhodan writes
"The fact of the matter is, Jeb has no foreign policy experience. None." — Marco Rubio on his former mentor in an interview with CNN
“They warned me when I was coming down here, ‘You’re going to South Carolina and they’re really conservative down there. And I’m like, wait a minute. People are people. We all have the same concerns.” — John Kasich on selling his positive message in the Palmetto State
Bits and Bites