A Local Look At Wisconsin's Rep. Paul Ryan
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, has been selected as the Republican candidate for vice president. Mitt Romney is expected to formally make this announcement of his obvious vice presidential running mate at an event later this morning in Virginia. The pick is a bit of a surprise. Congressman Ryan was not at the top of many lists. He shook off speculation on Fox News in May.
(SOUNDBITE OF FOX NEWS BROADCAST)
REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: You know, I'm pretty busy doing my job. I hear that, OK. If they asked me to consider it, then I'll consider it. But that's months away from that kind of decision being made, as far as I know.
WERTHEIMER: He was very firm when he said that he did not want to run for president, but considerably less firm in several conversations over the spring and summer about running for vice president. The selection of Congressman Ryan to share the Republican ticket obviously could be a shakeup in the presidential race. He's a great favorite among conservatives who view him as a champion of their first principles.
The new Romney-Ryan partnership hits the road after the announcement on a swing-state tour that will take them through North Carolina, Florida and, finally, Ohio. And we assume at some point they'll make a triumphal entry into Wisconsin.
And as voters get to the new VP pick, we've got more from Craig Gilbert. He is the Washington bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin. And he joins us by telephone from Madison.
Mr. Gilbert, what can you tell us about Paul Ryan? How is he regarded locally? If you could characterize him as a Wisconsin man, what would you say?
CRAIG GILBERT: Well, he's been very successful in his district, certainly. He's a good politician. He's got people skills. His personality, I would say, takes the edge for some people off of his policies in the sense that, you know, he's kind of a lightning rod when you look at his policy agenda. But he's got a history of getting votes from independents and even some Democrats in his southern Wisconsin district, which is Republican-leaning. but not super red.
WERTHEIMER: Not 100 percent Republican. We should just say that this is a little slice of Wisconsin right at the bottom, sort of southeastern corner, where it is ideally situated to be kind of an outer-suburban community, both for Chicago and for Milwaukee.
GILBERT: Yeah, and also kind of a mix. I mean, this is Les Aspin's old district. And the district has been redrawn...
WERTHEIMER: He was a very liberal Democrat.
GILBERT: Yeah, and made a little bit more Republican over the years, so it's not a 50/50 district anymore, strictly speaking. But it's - you have urban areas. You have suburban areas, and you have you rural areas. So there's, you know, there's minority population in Racine and Beloit. There's kind of working-class Reagan Democrats. There's, you know, new Republican subdivisions, with its farmers. So I would say Paul Ryan kind of over-performs for a conservative Republican in his district.
And he's really one of the only kind of leading Republicans in Congress who comes from a, you know, a fairly competitive district in a swing, battleground state.
WERTHEIMER: So what do you think about - can Paul Ryan swing Wisconsin into the Republican column? Will he help with that?
GILBERT: Yeah, I think he's got a chance to be a marginal - a fairly marginal benefit to Romney. The Republicans really have their work cut out and Wisconsin, even though they had this huge victory in the recall in June, where Republican Governor Scott Walker won, you know, a pretty convincing defense of his tenure. But this is a state that President Obama carried by 14 points, and a state where he's been leading in all of the polling, despite the Republican recall victory.
So it's a lot to ask and a lot to expect Paul Ryan single-handedly - especially when you consider the fact that he's not a statewide official - to single-handedly flip the state. But I think - I would imagine that this will mean, at a minimum, the Republicans make a much bigger investment in the state, because they really haven't been advertising in Wisconsin until now.
WERTHEIMER: What can you tell us about Paul Ryan's life outside politics, about his family? His family is never moved to Washington. Will they be involved in the campaign, do you think?
GILBERT: Well, he's got a young family. He's got three kids. His wife is from Oklahoma. He, you know, he does try to get back to the district a lot. He's, you know, in some ways he's kind of - he's got the sort of Wisconsin trappings. He's an avid bow hunter. He's kind of a fitness freak. He...
WERTHEIMER: Bikes around, as well as runs.
GILBERT: Yeah. He's - you know, likes to hike mountains in Colorado. He - I think he's, you know, got some real personal skills as a politician that are sometimes underrated because, you know, he really likes to sort of play up his image of being a policy wonk and a policy guy. But he's a good politician. I mean, you see him out on the stump, he mixes well with people. And he, you know, he's interested in politics, and I think he's got some political skills.
WERTHEIMER: Craig Gilbert is the Washington bureau chief of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in Paul Ryan's home state. Thanks very much, Craig.
GILBERT: It's a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.