Is Ben Carson serious about a presidential run?

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Dr. Benjamin Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon, has over the last two months attacked President Obama’s policies at a traditionally non-partisan prayer breakfast with Obama sitting only a few feet away, spoken at the Conservative Political Action Conference, appeared on FOX News to tout his conservative views and then sat down for a New York Times profile.

Is he serious about running for president? Republicans have quickly embraced the 61-year-old, eager to have on their side a well-known black doctor who has degrees from Yale and the University of Michigan, several popular books, a post at Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom award he received in 2008 for his brain surgery work. And Carson is not simply a conservative, but a person who espouses many of the GOP’s core values: He favors a flax tax, speaks frequently about his religion, sharply criticizes political correctness and opposes “Obamacare.”

“Certainly if a year and a half went by and there was no one on the scene and people are still clamoring, I would have to take that into consideration,” he told the Times about a presidential run. “I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens.”

Carson has never run for political office before, and no modern president has ascended from outside of politics straight to the Oval Office. And it’s not clear if Carson would actually want to do the tedious work of preparing a campaign, raising millions of dollars and spending weeks in states like Iowa, or if he is largely basking in his newfound fame, as Herman Cain did in his unorthodox run for president.

But there is enthusiasm for the brain surgeon among Republicans. Carson finished seventh in the straw poll for presidential contenders at CPAC, well behind Senators Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), but notably ahead of Sarah Palin and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an impressive finish considering many at the event had not heard of the doctor two months ago.

Carson told the Times, “I would like to have a voice,” in politics, while not committing to or ruling out actually running for office. With his unique combination of race, biography and political views, Carson is almost certain to be a major figure in the GOP even if he does not run, as party officials are likely to urge him to speak at events like CPAC, and appear on Fox News to rebut Obama’s views, particularly on health care, where Carson is clearly an expert.