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Who is Paul Ryan?

at 03:48 AM ET, 08/11/2012

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has named Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate in Norfolk on Saturday morning, a decision that will send the 42-year-old House Budget Committee chairman across the country to campaign on the ticket this fall.

So, who is the newest star in the national political firmament?

Ryan is a native of Janesville, Wis., where he was born in 1970. Ryan, the son of Paul Ryan. Sr. and Betty Ryan, is the youngest of four children. According to the Almanac of American Politics, Ryan’s father and former Democratic senator Russ Feingold’s father had law offices in the same building. Ryan’s father died of a heart attack when he was just a teenager.

After graduating from high school, Ryan attended Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science. Ryan had once planned to be a physician, but he told CNN in 2011 that chemistry, physics and biology “really wasn’t his aptitude.”

Ryan worked in politics in his 20s. In 1996, he was a speechwriter for Jack Kemp — a man Ryan has called his “mentor” — during his vice presidential campaign.

In 1998, Wisconsin’s 1st District seat opened up when then-Republican congressman Mark Neumann decided to challenge Feingold for the Senate seat. Ryan made a bid for the open House seat and, at just 28 years of age, he was elected to Congress to represent a district which included his hometown of Janesville.

Ryan is a Catholic and along with his wife Janna, has two sons and a daughter. When Ryan is not in Washington, he resides in Janesville with his family.

Ryan is a prolific political fundraiser who enjoys immense popularity among fiscal conservatives. Through late July, he had $5.4 million in his campaign account, which is a large number for a member of the House. Ryan has never been seriously challenged in the 1st District and has won his reelection campaigns with relative ease throughout the past decade. This November, Ryan was expected to defeat his Democratic challenger, Rob Zerban.

Ryan has served as chairman of the House Budget Committee since 2011, following the GOP’s takeover of the majority during the 2010 midterm elections. He has cultivated a reputation as a policy wonk and an entitlement reform advocate. In recent years, Ryan has become best known for unveiling budget blueprints that, among other things, would revamp Medicare by transforming it into a voucher program for those currently under 55 years of age.

Ryan’s budget proposals have passed the GOP-controlled House, but not the Democratic-controlled Senate. On the campaign trail, the Ryan budget has emerged in congressional races as a wedge issue. Democrats have used the document to court senior citizens by pointing to the changes Ryan would make to the Medicare program and linking Republican candidates to him.

While Ryan is beloved by much of the conservative base that Romney needs to rally behind his candidacy in the fall, he has also voted in favor of legislation derided by the many voters on the right. He voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the auto bailout supported by President Obama. He also voted for the 2011 compromise to raise debt ceiling, a proposal that was rejected by many conservatives in Ryan’s House GOP conference.

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