The answer didn’t augur well for his friend’s prospects, thought Chaffetz, who dropped the subject.
The signs hadn’t looked promising for Ryan anywhere else. A week earlier, the Wisconsin congressman had flown to Park City, Utah, for a large gathering of Republican luminaries rallying behind an ebullient Romney. When the weekend ended, a Ryan intimate, hoping to read some vice presidential tea leaves, asked him what his time with Romney had been like. What had they talked about?
A subdued Ryan indicated there had been no time, no talk, not really. “It wasn’t much more than hello,” he said. The flatness of Ryan’s response seemed to signal he wouldn’t be tapped, the acquaintance thought.
It had been a surprise to many of Ryan’s close friends to hear the mounting speculation that he was out of the running. Most knew about a private meeting between him and Romney last autumn in Ryan’s office, where the two men had talked for more than an hour, much of it spent in a deep and freewheeling discussion of economic policy. They talked about budgets and plans for growth, discovering they weren’t in agreement about everything, even debating a couple of policy points.
But their comfort with each other struck observers as obvious. “They’re both number guys, spreadsheet guys — they were finishing each other’s thoughts,” someone with knowledge of the discussion recounted. A pleased Ryan, who had yet to endorse anyone in the Republican race, declared in private that Romney had demonstrated a knowledge that many of the other Republican candidates lacked. He then flashed an irreverent side that the public seldom glimpsed. “I don’t have to teach him economics,” he joked.
The memory of that meeting was still fresh enough that not every Ryan admirer had given up hope on his chances. Some kept pushing. For weeks, a band of high-profile conservative activists and commentators had publicly lobbied for Ryan. The 42-year-old had emerged as a potent symbol of a political wing’s aspirations and restiveness. The drive to make him the running mate over former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio — each of whom spent far more time stumping for Romney but lacked Ryan’s steely reputation for policy independence — had become a proxy in conservatives’ efforts to gain a greater voice with Romney, about whom their skepticism persists. Their efforts received a boost when editorials from the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal turned up the heat on Romney, urging him to pick Ryan. By then, Romney’s aides insist now, the candidate had already privately decided to do so.
‘He’s just different’
But no one yet knew this, aside from Romney and perhaps Myers. Meanwhile, Chaffetz marveled over how coolly his friend was processing the ups and downs of the VP watch. “I realized he just never has needed anything like this, not at all — which is part of why I’ve wanted to see him run nationally,” said Chaffetz, who long before had decided that, among all the ambitious, politically adroit Republican House members, Ryan would be the one he supported were he ever to run for president. “He doesn’t operate the same way as some people. He’s just different.”