Elected to the House in 1998 as a 28-year-old and now serving his seventh term, Ryan was the first surrogate dispatched to North Carolina to host a solo event on behalf of the presidential operation. He’s also joined Romney on the stump several times since endorsing him ahead of the Wisconsin primary in April, and he’s one of the high-profile fundraising figures for the campaign. Although aides don’t acknowledge that he’s being vetted for vice president, Capitol Hill has been swirling with speculation that he is.
And yet, even though Ryan has become a rock star to the right, his relatively limited experience in Congress suggests to some that he might seem like a one-trick pony and thus unfit to fill the role of president. When it comes to Romney’s chief qualification that the VP be ready for the top job — and to his other key assertion about the importance of “running something” — the Wisconsin lawmaker is suspect. He jointly runs his household here and he’s the face of the House Budget Committee, but he certainly can’t claim much in the way of private sector experience after getting elected to the House at so young an age (after working there as a staffer).
Ryan is an affable 42-year-old who jokes about poring over federal budgets since age 22, and that interest has propelled him to superstardom within his party and has made President Obama take note of him. Senior aides on the House Republican leadership team worship Ryan, but when they discuss his prospects, they talk of how badly he wants to chair the all-powerful House Ways and Means Committee (where four Republicans currently outrank him), rather than the executive branch.