"He knows this stuff. He's been battle tested," said Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, a Ryan friend who often joined him during the campaign. "It gives the members more confidence in what they're doing, knowing that we've got someone on our side who is an incredible player, somebody who knows how to execute and knows he can win on a message that is right."
Romney chose Ryan, a former Hill staffer and self-professed budget geek, as his running mate largely because of his fiscal policy credentials, doubling down on the notion that voters would above all else cast their ballots on who could spark the nation's then-sputtering economy. Ryan was front-and-center those first weeks, blitzing local television stations in swing states with more than 100 interviews.
But Romney soon found himself getting hammered over Ryan's earlier budget proposals for deep spending cuts to programs for seniors and the poor. Democratic critics ran ads assailing the Ryan budget, and Republican candidates across the country were put on the defensive over it.
Ryan eventually faded back into the traditional role of a vice presidential candidate, assailing the opponent and validating the top of the ticket's credentials with a carefully scripted daily speech — and above all, not making any unnecessary waves. His last interview before Election Day was on Oct. 8.
The day after the election, he told reporters he would be returning to his home in Janesville, Wis., to spend time with his family before going back to his job in Congress, for which he won re-election on Nov. 6.
While some advisers urged him to give up his House seat and focus solely on a potential 2016 presidential bid, Ryan decided his budget experience was needed in Washington to help dodge the fiscal cliff crisis. But he also likely realized that a debate in his area of expertise could provide a huge political payoff and solid footing well ahead of the next race for the White House.