For all the talk about how the young vice-presidential prospect's budget blueprint would pose a political risk to Mitt Romney, there's been little mention about how his resume would so glaringly clash with the message of the GOP nominee-in-waiting.
But as the Ryan-for-veep buzz grows louder -- and with a decision on who Mitt Romney's running mate will be expected any day -- some of his rivals are pointing out that it may seem discordant for Romney to choose someone whose adult work experience comes almost completely in the worlds of government and politics.
The centerpiece of the CEO-turned-Massachusetts governor's campaign has been that, in a time of 8-percent-plus unemployment, his businessman's touch is what's needed in Washington to revive the economy.
"I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for 25 years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created -- that someone who's never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn't understand," Romney told Time magazine earlier this year.
What's more, Romney makes much on of not being a career politician or ever serving in Washington (ignoring, of course, that he could have been in the Senate for nearly two decades had he defeated Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994).
Yet Ryan, 42, has spent the bulk of his career in the capital. The House Budget Committee chairman has been in Congress since he was 28 and before that did stints as a congressional staffer and at the late Jack Kemp's think tank, Empower America.
And the very small but influential constituency that's now promoting Ryan hails from the same orbit of GOP thinkers and politicians asRyan.
More than one Republican wise guy noticed the irony of The Wall Street Journal's Thursday editorial criticizing "Beltway bedwetters" for fretting about the danger of elevating Ryan's Medicare reform proposal given that the core of the congressman's fan club is made up of conservative elites in the capital and his colleagues in the Capitol.
Ryan's time working in the business world is limited to the brief period he spent at his family's construction business in Janesville, Wis. That was only a matter of months, though. According to published reports, he returned to Wisconsin after the 1992 loss of his then-boss, Sen. Bob Kasten, but was back in Washington the next year working for Empower America. He returned to the family firm once more as a management consultant in 1997 but spent just a few months there before launching his winning congressional bid the next year.
While he wasn't exactly a job creator, Ryan has hustled to earn a living over the years, a skill many pols never have to develop.
In high school, the Badger State native worked on a series of entry-level jobs, including a stint on a grill at a local McDonald's. During college, he worked as an Oscar Mayer salesman and got a turn on the Wienermobile. And in his first years in Washington, he paid the rent thanks to a gig at Tortilla Coast, a Capitol Hill watering hole, and a job whipping people into shape at Washington Sport and Health Club.
In fairness to Ryan, many elected officials spent their early years working as staffers. And most of the other oft-mentioned Romney running mates are themselves former political operatives and aides.
But Sen. Rob Portman, a former aide to President George H.W. Bush, also worked as an attorney in Cincinnati, and Tim Pawlenty, a staffer for a Minnesota senator, was a lawyer in the Twin Cities and also worked at a software company.
Ryan's detractors, speaking anonymously so as not to criticize a potential Romney running mate, point out that the congressman is almost entirely a product of the Washington political universe.
"Why wouldn't we run against Washington with two outsiders?" said one Romney loyalist.
Of course, Ryan wouldn't be the first vice-presidential pick to have a esume different from the nominee's. Advocates of the budget panel chairman believe he would neatly complement Romney, particularly given the impending fiscal issues surely to dominate much of 2013. Further, they note that Ryan has spent his recent years in the House challenging the bipartisan conventional wisdom about the danger of taking on entitlements.
"His experience is as a bold and effective conservative reformer," said Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol. "That helps Mitt. The counter-argument is: He's been in D.C., people dislike D.C., therefore they won't like him. But voters really aren't that simple-minded, despite the fact that lots of consultants seem to presume they are. They can distinguish a politician who's part of the problem from one who's fighting for solutions."
As Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) put it, "Paul is in Washington, but not of Washington."
Asked whether Ryan's background is out of step with Romney's message about the need for a business approach to the capital, a Ryan aide pointed to his boss's public policy effort on jobs.
"Congressman Ryan has worked to advance solutions that encourage job creation and economic growth by reforming our anti-competitive tax code and reducing our out of control debt so businesses have the confidence and certainty necessary to hire, invest and expand," said Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert. "This seems very much in step with Gov. Romney's message."
But there is growing concern among Republican professionals, particularly those running House and Senate races, about the ramifications of a Romney-Ryan ticket.
To the anti-Ryan crowd, the specter of a think tank wonk turned congressional budgeteer on the hustings with an ill-at-ease former management consultant is hardly a dream team.
"He's an egghead who's never had a tough election," said a GOP strategist immersed in the party's congressional campaigns. "With a No. 1 already having problems connecting with voters, the last thing we should do is pick a No. 2 who is likely to have the same problem."
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