Where in the world is Janna Ryan?

October 1, 2012

(CORRECTION: She The People was down for four days while the Post switched it to a new publishing system. This post, filed Friday, was incorrect by the time it was published on Monday. The Romney-Ryan campaign says Janna Ryan has been on the trail since Friday and will be all this week.)

While the Romney campaign spreads out in battleground states, one person is absent.


Janna Ryan made an appearance at the Republican National Convention. (Jae C. Hong)

Janna Ryan, the wife of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, is nowhere to be found. She hasn’t been on the trail all week – or last week or the week before that. She is missing in action.

That’s highly unusual in this modern political era when entire families and even pets show up at campaign events on behalf of a candidate.

The last time Janna made a splash was at the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of August. She emerged with Ann Romney at a breakfast where The Post’s Reliable Source column reported, “The former tax attorney smiled a lot in her short remarks but stumbled over a few words and looked slightly overwhelmed.”

As she walked off the stage, she waved her hand over her forehead in a sigh of relief. Of course, she was nervous. Political waters are tough to navigate. One misstep and suddenly it goes viral. In everyday life, Janna is a stay-at-home mom of three in Janesville, a small Wisconsin city, while her husband wheels and deals in the halls of Congress.

Her sister, Dana Little Jackson, told CNN on the eve of the convention: “I think a lot of people might think the hardest part would be losing your privacy. I think the hardest part would be losing the life she loves in Janesville.”

She appeared in early August when Mitt Romney announced her husband as his running mate. She appeared the next day at a campaign in Mooresville, N.C., with her husband and their three children. She refused the microphone when Romney offered it to her.

On Aug. 27, she was with her husband at a RNC Send-Off Victory Rally in Janesville where they kissed. She was seen throughout the convention but never spoke in prime time. She also appeared in photos shot in Florida in the days immediately after the convention.

Maybe Janna simply isn’t ready for the glaring scrutiny of being a political spouse.

“I imagine there are lots of people working with her so what she says can’t be misconstrued,” says Christina Greer, an assistant professor of political science at Fordham University. “They’ve got to make sure she is on message, but then again she could say that she is shielding her children from what we saw with Chelsea.”

Janna’s got the perfect excuse – three children who need to be at home to attend school and have a sense of normalcy.

The absence of Janna makes some people wonder whether Paul Ryan is even married. Numerous people have asked me if he is single. “Where’s his wife, then?” they ask.

It’s hard to recall a time when a running mate’s spouse hasn’t at least appeared occasionally on the campaign trail.

Jill Biden is frequently at events introducing her husband. In 2008, Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd, often appeared at campaign events alone. So did Elizabeth Edwards in 2004 and Hadassah Lieberman in 2000 when her husband, Sen. Joe Lieberman, ran on the ticket with Al Gore. Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick, was always on the campaign trail drumming up support, as did Tipper Gore in the 1992 and 1996 campaigns of Bill Clinton. 

Female Republican voters probably would like to hear more from the 43-year-old mother who gave up her career to be a mom and wore a Talbots dress on the closing night of the convention. The Oklahoma native, who friends say is brilliant and savvy, could play very well in small towns and intimate gatherings like coffees with women, who could identify with her better than they do with Ann Romney, the wife of a multimillionaire who wears Oscar de la Renta.

But political watchers don’t think that she’ll hop on the campaign trail in the next month.

“Although Janna Ryan has impressive political credentials of her own – not only from having been raised around politics, but also from having worked as a tax lobbyist on Capitol Hill – and likely could be an asset to the Romney campaign on the trail, it seems clear that her focus is on ensuring that her and Paul’s three young children do not experience the upheaval and stress that go with a presidential campaign,” Lara Brown, a political science professor at Villanova University, tells me.

And that’s refreshing, Brown says.

“She doesn’t seem to be either seeking or shunning the national spotlight,” Brown says. “She seems both confident with her decision and comfortable with the chaos spinning around her.”

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

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