Ben Carson is doing much more than entertaining the idea of making a White House bid. A new Bloomberg story captures Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, in the middle of a virtual campaign-in-waiting.

For Carson himself, months of exploring have started to shift into action. He launched his own political action committee to support his nascent campaign in August (called USA First PAC). He has named his campaign chairman (Houston businessman Terry Giles). He even knows the first thing he'd do if elected (call for a joint session of Congress, where he will pledge to bridge the divide that has split the two parties).

Add to that, a new poll out from Bloomberg and the Des Moines Register suggests that he starts in pretty good shape. In the poll, he comes in second place to Mitt Romney, snagging 11 percent of the vote. He even leads within the margin of error (caveat emptor) against Ted Cruz (7 percent) and Rand Paul (10 percent), two potential rivals who would likely all be fighting for some part of the all-important "teavangelical" vote.

In opining about a best outcome for a White House run, Carson spouts conservative talking points about putting "the Constitution back on the top shelf," but it's worth thinking about in the context of a 2016 run. What's the best-case scenario for Carson in 2016? (And we are excluding the possibility of a win, which is highly unlikely.)

One model is Herman Cain, and it's a useful parallel not just because they are both black.  Yes, Cain was able to seize on the GOP's desire to have their version of Obama, but he was also able to capitalize on the perennial desire to have a political outsider. It's the populist idea that 50 random people in the phone book could run the government better than the elites. In 2016, that would be part of Carson's appeal, but as we've written before, his lack of experience will also likely be a liability.

Another model is Rick Santorum, who in a weak field in 2012 did much better than anyone expected. Now, Carson doesn't have Santorum's campaign and political experience. He also doesn't have the kind of  oratorical skills that Santorum does. But even though he tends to speak in a whispery voice, he most certainly has the ear of evangelicals. Like Santorum, you can imagine Carson having campaign events at churches and speaking to home-schoolers. (Sidebar: A similar strategy helped Mike Huckabee win the Iowa caucuses in 2008.)

Yes, Carson will have to battle Cruz (who commands a stage like Joel Osteen) and possibly Santorum if they run in 2016, but with his up-from-nowhere story, and yes, his race, he is positioned to be a contender for a certain segment of the GOP primary vote come 2016. And for a little-known guy, he's got a decent-sized following already.

His bid would be a long, long, long shot, but Carson has a specific appeal that could earn him real support in the 2016 GOP presidential race.