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Paul Ryan, Aiming for Ways & Means Instead of VP?

By Erin McPike - June 27, 2012

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He went on to say, "If I wanted to be president, I would go and do that. I'm just not that ambitious. I'm ambitious, but I'm not that ambitious."

In fact, he was the second choice in 2011 to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned down the offer.

And at a recent event here in his hometown when campaigning with Romney, Ryan wasn’t the star; Gov. Scott Walker was. Ryan spoke first, but Walker came onstage side-by-side with Romney to the music of Kid Rock. The governor, fresh from winning his recall battle, got the biggest reaction from the crowd of Romney supporters, many of whom were decked out in shirts supporting Walker.

Robert Sullivan, from Beloit, Wis., was wearing an American flag shirt and a Romney pin and said that Ryan is “excellent, excellent.” But asked about Ryan as a potential running mate, he squinted a bit and said, “Meh.” He explained: “I think he does an outstanding job where he’s at. There are really so many good people for VP. He’d make a great one, but he’s doing an outstanding job where he’s at.”

Mary Baldwin of Madison, who was wearing an “I stand with Walker” pin, said of Ryan, “I love him. I want to move to Janesville so I can vote for him.”

The congressman’s home-state voters tend to underscore what many of his colleagues think: He’s well-liked, but in need of some more seasoning and perhaps not ready to jump to the vice presidential level just yet. He’s best known on the House side of the Capitol for walking from meeting to meeting engrossed in his iPod, listening to Rage Against the Machine. But few key leadership aides who have spent ample time with Ryan have much else to say about him.

Even some Republican insiders closely following the presidential race scoff at the idea that Ryan could be Romney’s pick. One plugged-in strategist shook his head recently and said, “He looks like a 28-year-old kid who wants to take away your Medicare. Voters in Florida won’t buy that.”

Added Democratic strategist Doug Thornell, who logged time in a senior position in the House: “House Republicans lost two special elections largely because of the radical ideas contained in the Ryan Budget, specifically ending Medicare as we know it. Of all the actions taken by House Republicans, embracing the Ryan budget will damage them the most in November. So in a way, we may owe him a debt of gratitude for making his conference and Mitt Romney swallow such a politically toxic plan.” 

RCP's Scott Conroy contributed to this report.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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