Dozens of Republican lawmakers, activists, and media figures graced the stage during this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but most of the speeches were not aired live on national television. Fox News, for example, chose not to broadcast remarks from Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, or even Mitt Romney.
But the network did offer live coverage of Dr. Benjamin Carson's CPAC speech on Saturday morning. For folks who don't watch Fox News regularly, I suspect the next question is, who's Dr. Benjamin Carson?
Regular readers may recall we talked about Carson a month ago, when he appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast. Though the traditions of the event mandate that speakers avoid partisan attacks or sharply political speeches, Carson used his time at the podium to condemn the Affordable Care Act, with President Obama a few feet away.
To put it mildly, the Republican base was thrilled, and a video of Carson's speech went viral in right-wing circles, generating 2.5 million views on YouTube.
Over the course of about a month, he became something of a Republican celebrity. Carson started appearing on Sean Hannity's program; Sunday show invitations soon followed from ABC and CNN; and the religious right and the Wall Street Journal editorial page quickly began encouraging the far-right physician to run for president in 2016, despite never having held public office at any level.
One gets the sense he's enjoying the attention.
In a question-and-answer session following his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Carson announced that he is retiring from medicine because he wants "to quit while I'm at the top of my game, and there are so many more things that could be done."
Asked whether he planned to run for office, he demurred, saying he wants to focus on education -- but at one point added, "but who knows what will happen?"
Carson, during his speech, received a standing ovation and enthusiastic applause from the crowd when he speculated what might happen if "you magically put me in the White House."
We'll get a better sense of Carson's ambitions as time goes on, but his is a name worth watching.
Update: Media Matters recently published an interesting report on Carson, and to put it mildly, it appears Fox News has been very eager to promote him.