He looked like an average American in jeans and sunglasses, a baseball cap pulled low over his brow — Paul Ryan was on a mission to ensure almost nobody but him and US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney knew about his date with destiny.
Disguises. Absolute secrecy. Dummy destinations and a dash through Wisconsin woods. Ryan’s journey from unlikely vice presidential pick to White House hopeful Romney’s running mate unfolded this past week with the pace and tension of a John LeCarre thriller.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, tasked his adviser and confidante Beth Myers with handling the vice presidential search shortly after he clinched the Republican nomination in April.
Known for her loyalty and secrecy, she immediately put a clamp on virtually all information about the process. Until now.
Myers briefed reporters on Saturday in Dulles International Airport near Washington for a “tic-toc” of events leading to the moment Ryan took the stage earlier that day as Romney’s vice presidential nominee.
“I had one directive: the candidate must be qualified to take office on Day 1,” she said, adding that while there was internal discussion, “this was Mitt’s decision.”
However, it was left to her to drill into the details. Near the start of the process she consulted a maestro of the running mate search, former US vice president Dick Cheney.
By May 1, Myers and Romney had created a shortlist from what she called “a very deep bench.”
Myers and a team of lawyers squirreled themselves in a secure room at Romney headquarters in Boston for weeks for the vetting process, reviewing the most sought after political dossiers in the US.
She met with Romney in June to present preliminary reports and then on Aug. 1, she and Romney “met for a final gut check” on the potential candidates.
“He told me his decision,” she said: Ryan was his man.
That put in motion a clandestine operation to bring Ryan to meet Romney — without the news world, or anybody else, catching a whiff of what was happening.
Ryan was told to make his way to Chicago’s airport on Aug. 5 where he was met by Myers’s son Curt, who drove Ryan to the Myers’ home in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Romney, too, came to Brookline, and the pair met privately for an hour in the Myers’ dining room. When Ryan emerged, he knew he was the nominee.
They had planned for a Friday announcement, but because of a deadly attack on a Sikh temple in Ryan’s congressional district, the roll out was pushed to Saturday.
Ryan returned home from Brookline unnoticed, but with speculation building, the press were closely monitoring his movements.
Buzz around the two had built up, yet until late on Friday night, even in an era of blogging and Twitter, the world was essentially unaware of the “operation VP.”