The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images
January 7, 2016 8:26 AM EST

Donald Trump has already done what few in the GOP thought possible: rising to the top of the polls and staying there for six months. Four weeks before voters make their preferences known, TIME’s David Von Drehle examines the roots and impact of the Trump phenomenon on the cover of this week’s magazine. A look at how Trump has gone around the media and party bosses to connect directly with the voters and viewers he has been cultivating for a generation.

Chris Christie is channeling Adele to respond to attacks from Marco Rubio’s super PAC, pointing to Rubio’s past praise of Christie’s record. It’s the same tactic—sans Adele—that Rubio used to parry attacks from Jeb Bush and his super PAC, proving that what goes around, comes around. And 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain is trolling frequent sparring partner Ted Cruz over his eligibility to be president. McCain faced similar questions from some conservative circles when he ran. Cruz calls it “settled law.”

Hillary Clinton tells TIME’s Jay Newton-Small about how she’ll be different governing as a woman. President Obama‘s chief of staff Denis McDonough is his fifth and most powerful yet. The root of his influence: how similar he is to his boss. And Obama previews his final State of the Union address.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Donald Trump’s Art of the Steal
TIME’s David Von Drehle on how the real estate magnate took the Republican Party from its old bosses

Republicans Fight to Be the Not-Trump in New Hampshire
It’s a race for second place, TIME’s Philip Elliott writes

Hillary Clinton on Running and Governing as a Woman
TIME’s Jay Newton-Small interviews the Democratic front-runner

Obama’s Obama
Meet Denis McDonough, the president’s powerful chief of staff [Politico]

Rubio Ditches Thrift and Flies Private Jets Almost Exclusively
The campaign that bragged about smart spending last year has been flying almost all charters for two months [Politico]

Sound Off

“Look, it would be quite ironic if after seven or eight years of drama around the President’s birth certificate, if Republican primary voters were to choose Senator Cruz as their nominee — somebody who actually wasn’t born in the United States and only 18 months ago renounced his Canadian citizenship.” — White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on questions about Ted Cruz’s eligibility to be president following the GOP’s flirtations with “birtherism”

“I regret it every day … But it was the right decision for my family and me.” – Vice President Joe Biden on his decision not to run for president again

Bits and Bites

Joe Klein: The Republican Governors’ Advantage [TIME]

Congress Sends Health Care Repeal to Obama for First Time [Associated Press]

President Obama Releases Trailer Previewing His Last State of the Union [TIME]

John McCain: “I Don’t Know” If Cruz Is Eligible For Presidency With Canadian Birth [BuzzFeed]

Jeb Bush Hits Chris Christie’s Fiscal Record [Washington Post]

NRA Declines to Participate in Obama Gun Town Hall [CNN]

Ted Cruz: My Presidential Eligibility Is ‘Settled Law’ [Washington Post]

Report: State Department Gave ‘Inaccurate’ Answer on Clinton Email Use [Washington Post]

 

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