I’ll give you four explanations for how this might be true and none of them are “They really said it and really meant it and really thought he might give Trump a run for his money.”

The man is a further-left John Kasich. The only reason to think he’d have meaningfully outperformed Mark Sanford or Bill Weld in a primary is that, as a sitting governor, he would have had a larger media megaphone.

But so what? If anything, his departures from right-wing orthodoxy would have given Trump a bit of extra cover as a “true conservative,” relatively speaking.

He writes in his new book:

“In the days and weeks that followed [in early 2019], the drumbeat grew louder and more insistent,” Hogan writes of the presidential rumors after he gave a speech emphasizing the “character and competence” elected officials should hold and how they should not “intimidate” or “demonize” when they discuss ideas.

“On cable news. In private phone calls. In conversations with fellow Republicans, donors and members of the media. Even with a couple of Trump administration cabinet secretaries,” Hogan said.

“The media, I understood. They were itching for a tussle in 2020,” Hogan said later. “They were also enamored by the idea of a popular Republican governor, a real Republican, with a proven record of electoral success, going toe to toe with Donald Trump inside the GOP.”

He added: “But cabinet secretaries? Encouraging me to consider running against their boss, the president? That one surprised me.”

Explanation one: It never happened, but Hogan has a book out this week and is smart enough to know that you’re not going to move sales in 2020 unless there’s a little Trump dirt in there. Mary Trump just sold 1.3 million copies by dishing on her uncle, the president. Hogan doesn’t have anything as juicy as she has but he could at least cough up a few vaporous anecdotes about treacherous Trump cabinet members pleading with him to take down their boss.

Explanation two: It happened, but it was standard backslapping chitchat among politicians gladhanding each other with nothing serious behind it. “Hey, Lar, how are ya? Haven’t heard from you in ages. What do you think, slugger — you ready to take on you-know-who?”

Explanation three: It happened and they meant it, but only because they thought it’d be funny to watch Trump destroy one of the party’s foremost RINOs in a primary.

Explanation four, my theory of choice: It never happened, but Hogan realized this would be a superb way to get in Trump’s head by feeding his paranoia about disloyalty and backstabbing. Mark Meadows and Jared Kushner are probably bugging offices in the West Wing as I write this to try to sniff out the secret pro-Hogan turncoats.

The most noteworthy thing he says in this interview with Bloomberg about his claim is that he won’t name the cabinet members for fear that they’ll be fired. “Fired”? You mean these are current cabinet members, not former ones? There are plenty of ex-officials from Team Trump whom one can imagine feeling gung ho to see him ousted but the current crop seems like a pretty loyal bunch. The most intriguing possibility is Ben Carson, just because he has a Maryland connection with Hogan: Carson was a famous surgeon for many years at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore before moving into politics. But Carson seems highly unlikely to prefer a centrist Republican over a president who enjoys strong support from evangelicals. Assuming Hogan’s not making this up whole cloth, who’s he talking about here?