With the Saturday morning news that Republican Mitt Romney has selected Janesville congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate in the 2012 presidential election, those outside of Wisconsin, or even south central Wisconsin, are seeking to learn more about the seven-term U.S. representative.
Isthmus featured Ryan in an April 2009 cover story by Roger Bybee, which labeled him a "Republican poster boy," and noted that while he often appeared on national cable talk shows, he was not available for comment on this story.
It details his rising Republican star.
Instead of public-sector spending to create jobs and stimulate spending, Ryan urged a package of tax cuts. As he put it, "We missed an opportunity today to enact an economic stimulus package that empowers the engines of economic growth."
While he represents one of the nation's most economically devastated districts, Ryan touts the virtues of unregulated free-market capitalism. He favors trade agreements blamed for sending jobs overseas and opposes universal health care (and even the broadly supported S-CHIP health program for children).
Such strong adherence to conservative orthodoxy has made Ryan "a rising star" in the Republican Party, according to the conservative Washington Times. But Ryan's growing appeal is based on more than ideology: He is able to deliver the Republican pitch smoothly and sincerely, without adopting Newt Gingrich's sneer or Rush Limbaugh's sometimes cruel self-righteousness.
Ryan, with his sunny disposition and choirboy looks, projects compassion and forcefully proclaims dedication to his district. And he's proven he is not unyieldingly pro-corporate, as when he recently joined in condemnation of AIG "retention" bonuses.
"He is perceived in the district [as] someone who is young, bright, all-American, with integrity," says professor Dennis Dresang of the UW-Madison's Robert M. La Follette School for Public Affairs. "Ryan's done well at constituent casework. People are grateful and will reward you with support."
In a sidebar to that cover story, Bybee examined Ryan's voting record in the House and detailed his role in the sub-prime housing meltdown.
In 1999, Ryan voted for the repeal of Depression-era legislation meant to minimize the risk undertaken by commercial banks. He backed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that allowed commercial banks to engage in much riskier investment banking and insurance.
In 2000, Ryan voted for the Commodity Futures Trading Modernization Act, which blocked federal regulation of derivatives. A once-obscure stock-market maneuver, derivatives became a popular means of speculating on the future financial health of specific assets.
The story also looked at where Ryan's campaign contributions were coming from.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ryan's largest set of contributions from 1998 to 2008 came from the financial, real estate and insurance sector, clocking in at $1,555,321. While Ryan claimed that the bank bailout "sucks," he nonetheless voted for it.
Last December, in a featured highlight of the annual Isthmus "Cheap Shots" year-end wrap-up -- ("Paul Ryan's very big year" -- Ellen Meany called Ryan the "Republican Boyish Wonder," and listed a year's worth of his public statements. The story, meant to poke fun at Ryan, ends with this observation.
As 2011 comes to a close, Ryan paired up with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon to introduce a bill that would change Medicare's single-payer model to a system of private insurance with public options. Initial reaction from both sides is mixed -- the White House is against it -- and media consensus favors the idea that this is meant to help presidential sad-sack Mitt Romney, who had embraced Ryan's plan to end Medicare as we know it, and would face a brutal assault in the general election from seniors, all of whom vote.
In January of this year, Joe Tarr looked at Ryan's Congressional district, wondering: "Can Paul Ryan be beat?" Rob Zerban, who is set to face off against Ryan, who may run for Vice President and his House seat simultaneously, is quoted heavily, while Ryan's office didn't return calls.
Ryan pushes an anti-Keynesian economic plan that stresses tax cuts and balanced budgets through spending cuts. He would replace Medicare with vouchers that cover part of the cost of private insurance. He would eliminate corporate income taxes and estate taxes.
Zerban says ideas like this don't fit the district's values. "For a long time he'd speak a moderate game and then go to Washington and be very partisan," Zerban says, adding that Ryan's high profile now means "he's no longer able to hide his agenda."