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Politics: So long, Walker and Boehner

There were plenty of headlines in the presidential campaign this week: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, once a leading prospect for the Republican nomination, quit the race after falling to zero in at least one poll; Donald Trump renewed his feud with Fox News and opened a new one with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida; and new polls suggested that Trump's support may have peaked, with his support stalled at around one in four GOP voters.

On the Democratic side, the "will he or won't he" speculation continued to swirl around Vice President Joe Biden.

But this is the Friday afternoon edition of Essential Politics, where we focus on the stories that provide insight beyond the headlines. We had plenty of that, as well. I'm your host for Fridays, Washington Bureau chief David Lauter, and here is some of the week's best political reading:

Carly Fiorina has been rising fast in polls of Republican voters since last week's debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. On the campaign trail, she portrays herself as a down-the-line conservative. But on abortion, immigration and other issues, her positions now diverge from those she took earlier in her career, including in her run for the U.S. Senate to represent California in 2010, Mark Barabak and Seema Mehta report.

Also on the Fiorina front, columnist Robin Abcarian takes a look at the still-raw wounds from her tenure as head of Hewlett-Packard.

And before we completely leave behind last week's debate, check out this piece by Michael Finnegan, who interviewed Republican voters in California after the event to get their assessments. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in for some harsh reviews. "Quite honestly, I don't think he really wants it that bad," said one voter Finnegan talked to. "It's like he's just going through the motions."

On the Democratic side, one of the biggest problems for Hillary Rodham Clinton has been calming the nerves of her large coterie of wealthy donors. That's especially true in Hollywood, where many of Clinton's biggest contributors live and where fickleness is an art form. Evan Halper and Melanie Mason take their temperature.

Halper and Noam Levey also took a look at Clinton's new healthcare plans, which provide an indication of where the healthcare debate is likely to head now that Obamacare has increasingly become entrenched.

The fact that Obamacare has survived so far is a source of fury for some on the right. That anger is part of the deep frustration many conservatives have with their party's leaders -- a dynamic that's shaping the presidential contest and that played a role in House Speaker John A. Boehner's decision today to step down and the likely ascent of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield to the speakership. As David Savage reports, some of the most intense anger has focused on Chief Justice John Roberts. The attacks on Roberts show a split in conservative ranks over whether "judicial restraint" is still what they want on the high court, Savage explains.

What we're reading

As we do every week in these Friday newsletters, we want to show you a couple of the best insightful political stories we've seen elsewhere.

This week, check out Ryan Lizza's piece in the New Yorker looking at the problem of second acts in politics and how that affects Trump. Come for the political analysis, stay for the great quotes from David Mamet about politics and drama.

And no reporter knows Scott Walker better than the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert. Read his analysis of what went wrong with Walker's campaign. 

That wraps up this week. On Monday, my colleague Christina Bellantoni will be back with the daily newsletter. Until then, keep track of all the developments in the 2016 campaign with our Trail Guide, at our politics page and on Twitter at @latimespolitics. Send your comments, suggestions and news tips to politics@latimes.com

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