Silent Paul Ryan

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 7 2013 9:41 AM

Silent Paul Ryan

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WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 20: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) heads to a meeting with House Republicans, on Capitol Hill, December 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. House Republicans called off plans to vote on Boehner's 'Plan B' Fiscal Cliff plan. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 20: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) heads to a meeting with House Republicans, on Capitol Hill, December 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. House Republicans called off plans to vote on Boehner's 'Plan B' Fiscal Cliff plan. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The New York Times is out with a story about Paul Ryan's "next act" in Congress. Four people deliver fresh quotes: Lindsey Graham, a spokesman for Marco Rubio, an "associate close to Ryan," and Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who has not worked for Ryan.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

I point this out not to impugn the Times, because the paper tried to get a Ryan interview. Lots of people have. It's just that the former vice presidential nominee has stayed away from almost all non-Wisconsin media since the election -- actually, since before the election. One month before the vote, Ryan ended a "strange" interview with a local Flint, Michigan reporter ("trying to put words in people's mouths?"), and that was pretty much it for him and the media. Since the election, many outlets have tried to write "what Ryan does next?" stories and gotten bupkis from the congressman.

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Can Ryan really rebuild his power base without working the media? Obviously, yes! Avoiding the press has been working out spectacularly well for him. Ryan has avoided probably two, three aggregate hours of "will you run in 2016?" questions, and has voted strategically without much blowback from the base. He played a smaller-than-expected role in "fiscal cliff" negotiations, but he was consulted on the House GOP's big offers, and he got less flack over his vote for the deal than John Boehner did. Within 48 hours he proved himself to conservatives again by voting against the first tranche of Sandy relief. He's been utterly absent from "palace intrigue" in the GOP conference, which makes him more likely to rise in leadership.

And the media Ryan has spoken to has been incredibly friendly. Hugh Hewitt, the California conservative talker who accidentally tripped up Ryan on a friendly question about his marathon time, spent a minute of their latest chat apologizing for the embarrassment.

HH: Speaking of the election, I want to turn there for just a couple of minutes. And first, I want to begin by saying when you were on the show the first time after your nomination, I surprised you with a question. And I never clear my questions with anyone, but I surprised you with a question about your running, and I’m sorry about that, because you didn’t have a chance to check with your brother.
PR: Well, I just forgot. I mean, it was, what, 22 years ago? I hurt my back when I was like 24 or 25, and I quit running. But I used to run a lot, and I’d literally just forgot what the time was, and I threw it off the top of my head. That was the mistake I made. I ran an ordinary time. I thought I gave you an ordinary time answer. Apparently not, because I just forgot that the sense of these things.
HH: But that was an illustration of the environment in which the campaign operated.
PR: Yeah.
HH: …where hypertechnical gotcha overtook the big issues like we’ve been talking about.
PR: Right. Yeah.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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