If we’re destined to have another Bush versus Clinton election, it’s only right that there be a Perot-type in the mix too.

As David Petraeus once said, tell me how this ends.

Ben Carson is warming to the idea of running for president. Since the famous brain surgeon retired last year from Johns Hopkins Hospital, he’s been speaking around the country to enthusiastic audiences. And they’ve affected his thinking about seeking national office…

Carson writes that he suspects many others interested in high office would be better candidates. But in his book he has a caveat: “If I felt called by God to officially enter the world of politics, I would certainly not hesitate to do so.”

Interviewed this week, Carson said he’s “starting to feel it. Because every place I go, it’s unbelievable.” One lady “really touched me the other night … She just kept clinging to my hand and said, ‘You have to run. You have to run.’ And so many people tell me that, and so I think I’m starting to hear something.”…

Carson said he has no illusions about running. “It’s a daunting thing,” he told me. “I know how vehemently the left will come after you, try to destroy you, try to destroy your family. But at the same time I recognize that people like Nathan Hale – he said, ‘My only regret is I have but one life to give to my country’ … And if everybody runs for the hills because they’re afraid that somebody is going to attack them or their family, then [the left] will have won.”

He’s got his very own version of a “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC (led by John Philip Sousa’s great-grandson), which, believe it or not, has actually out-raised Clinton’s org since the beginning of the year. The assumption all along, given his speech at CPAC and frequent appearances in righty media, has been that he’ll run as a Republican. But … why would he do that? His natural base of support in the primary is conservatives, but how many conservatives are going to opt for a political novice when they’ve got Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal, and maybe Rick Perry and Mike Pence to choose from instead — especially given that Carson has a litmus-test problem on guns? The only path he has, realistically, is if none of those guys run except Paul (who’s definitely running) and then Paul wobbles among righties under the cumulative weight of his ideological idiosyncracies. Then Carson could become the conservative choice, which would make him the “Not Jeb” or “Not Christie” alternative against whoever emerges from the center of the party. In which case, he’ll lose anyway. And let’s face it: If Paul is wobbly because of his take on, among other things, voter ID, one of the other candidates I mentioned will sense it and jump in to challenge him on the right. There’s no way, in other words, that only Paul and Carson will be out there campaigning for tea partiers. That being so, what hope does Carson have?

The obvious solution, then: Don’t run as a Republican, run as a conservative independent. Advance to the general election against Hillary and Jeb or whoever and offer yourself as a fresh-faced naif who’s never worked in Washington, the natural antidote to the grotesque dynastic politics being played by the two major parties. He would get some votes as a Perot-like “no more business as usual” protest candidate — maybe enough to sink the GOP’s chances against Hillary, which would be … sub-optimal for a conservative heartthrob. So, tell me how this ends. Early flame-out in the GOP primaries, albeit with better-than-expected numbers in Iowa thanks to social conservatives? Some sort of surprise momentum into February due to universal disgust with D.C. and craving for someone uncorrupted by the system among voters? Third-party candidacy? Fox News show circa 2017? What’s the answer?