Revealed: House Republicans recruited Ben Carson to replace Boehner as Speaker in 2014. Wait, what?

I say again: What?

“They were looking for an alternative, they were looking for someone strong and courageous who might really be able to add some spine and some backbone,” Carson said. “I was very flattered that there were several members that thought I’d fit the bill very well, but I think it played out correctly the way that it did.”…

A second source with knowledge of the situation said that in 2014 “several” House conservatives summoned Carson to Capitol Hill to pitch him on the idea of becoming the next Speaker in the event that they were successful in voting the Ohio Republican out of the position in 2015…

In explaining to The Hill why he declined, Carson took a passing swipe at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has been criticized for missing votes in the upper chamber.

“It would have pretty much ruined my presidential bid,” Carson said. “It would have been very difficult to do my job as the Speaker of the House while running for president. You’ve seen how difficult a time Sen. Rubio is having fulfilling his senatorial obligations. The Speaker of the House has even more obligations.”

Let me add a third source. A friend saw this story this morning and sent me a message on Twitter claiming that he’s known about it for months. He’s friends with his congressman and the guy told him about the effort to recruit Carson awhile back. W-w-w-what?

Two points. One: Ben Carson, political neophyte, can’t possibly have been their first out-of-the-box choice to swoop in and take over one of the most thankless, complex, and powerful jobs in government, can he? If they went to Carson with this idea, they must have gone to others. Newt Gingrich would be an obvious choice given his experience. The only reason to prefer Carson is that, being such a newbie, he would have been more easily influenced by his supporters than an old hand like Newt would have. Let’s have the full list, though. Which other shockingly inexperienced people were approached to take over a role which requires a deep knowledge of factions within the House, good personal relationships with various players in those factions, and a canny sense of what their political priorities are?

Two: Am I understanding this correctly? Ben Carson ruled out a chance to be Speaker of the House because he was intent on making a futile run for president instead? Granted, the Speaker bid would have been a long longshot, but you never know how grassroots Republicans might have responded given their loathing of Boehner. Even in a worst-case scenario where Carson’s candidacy gets no traction in the House, he would have gotten a boost in prestige from the effort and earned some goodwill with conservative voters for making himself available to challenge Boehner. And having a few dozen congressmen interested in making you the most powerful man in Congress still puts you closer to real power than a quixotic campaign for the presidency does. Either Carson didn’t fully game this out or, given the upheaval in his campaign lately, he and his inner circle decided that there simply wasn’t any direct-mail gold to be mined in a run for Speaker. I wonder which it is.