'Rock Star' Paul Ryan To Be Tested In Glare Of National Campaign

The biggest test of Paul Ryan's political career is about to begin.

The Wisconsin lawmaker and Budget Committee chairman is enjoying the honeymoon period as Mitt Romney’s running mate, drawing large and energized crowds at rallies and mostly positive coverage from national and local press. 

But the glow of his selection will soon fade, and when it does, Republican lawmakers and strategists say, Ryan will have to step up his game if he’s going to help Romney beat President Obama in November.

“In the last couple of days, he's gone from double-A baseball to the major leagues,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “In terms of the spotlight, less than half of Americans even knew who he was. We can say inside the Beltway he's one of the leaders of the GOP House, but he's going to TMZ rock-star scrutiny, and that’s hard for anyone.”

Strategists note that Ryan is largely unknown on the national scene, and has never before experienced the punishing grind and wall-to-wall media coverage of a presidential race. 

“People like to say what they would do on the campaign trail, but it's a whole other matter when you're actually in the trenches,” O’Connell said. 

Still, the Romney campaign has been cautious about overexposure this week, limiting Ryan to a single solo televised interview with Fox News and restricting press access to early finance events that Ryan attended.

That could be a smart strategy as Ryan adjusts to the national stage. O’Connell said there are inevitably growing pains for any politician entering a race for the White House.

“It even took the president awhile to get the hang of it,” O’Connell said. “[Obama] stood up and said he had visited all 57 states [in 2008] … and he's really good at this.”

Read more from Justin Sink and Molly K. Hooper at The Hill

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published this page in In The News 2012-08-16 12:30:00 -0400
Analysis & Political Strategy