Conservative Star’s Small-Town Roots
JANESVILLE, Wis. — Representative Paul D. Ryan’s childhood home here was not overtly partisan. His parents were enthusiastic supporters of Representative Les Aspin, a Democrat, yet adored President Ronald Reagan from their glimpses of him on the evening news. But the death of his father when Mr. Ryan was only 16 punctured his life of math tests and bike riding, and in that fissure, the seeds of his worldview were planted.
Mr. Ryan, and his wife, Janna, live in Janesville, Wis., with their children, daughter Liza and sons Charlie and Sam.
“Paul went to work at McDonald’s and began to pull his own weight, and becomes class president the same year,” said his brother Tobin. “It is remarkable that he chose a path of individual responsibility and maturity rather than letting grief take a different course.” He added: “Some of his political views did begin to coalesce around the time of my father’s passing.”
His self-reliance followed him to summer camp, where as a counselor he canoed and hiked, and into young adulthood, where he took up deer hunting, a fact noted in his engagement notice in 2000 in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Ryan is an avid hunter and fisherman,” the paper reported, “who does his own skinning and butchering and makes his own Polish sausage and bratwurst.”
It followed him into college, where he immediately took a passionate interest in the canon of conservative economic theorists and writers — Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises — who inspired the up-and-coming generation of libertarian-minded activists and lawmakers.
It followed him to Congress, where his brand of conservative economics, honed in Washington’s conservative policy and research groups, eventually inspired the Tea Party freshmen in the House for whom Mr. Ryan has served as seer, cheerleader and workout buddy.
And, finally, it captured the imagination of Mitt Romney, who named Mr. Ryan as the Republicans’ presumptive vice-presidential nominee on Saturday.
In Mr. Ryan, he has found not only a sympathetic life story to animate his campaign — which he seized upon when he spoke on Saturday of how Mr. Ryan’s father’s death “forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should” — but also a politician who fills in what many see as the gaps in Mr. Romney’s conservative bona fides. Mr. Ryan is a strict supply-side budget expert and social conservative who counts fans across the Republican spectrum. He has been a driving force, if not always a visible one, in the party’s biggest fights with President Obama, including last year’s budget impasse that took the nation to the brink of default.
Mr. Ryan’s enormous influence was apparent last summer when Representative Eric Cantor, the second most powerful House Republican, told Mr. Obama during negotiations over an attempted bipartisan “grand bargain” that Mr. Ryan disliked its policy and was concerned that a deal would pave the way for Mr. Obama’s easy re-election, according to a Democrat and a Republican who were briefed on the conversation.
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Posted by Donna Calvin — Monday, August 13, 2012
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