Three U.S. senators — Joe Biden in 2008, Joe Lieberman in 2000, and Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1960 — share something in common with Congressman Paul Ryan this year: while running as their party’s vice presidential candidate, they also waged reelection campaigns to keep their current office.
Congressman Paul Ryan’s dual campaign contrasts with what occurred the last time a House member was tapped to be a VP candidate. In 1984, New York Democrat Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro voluntarily relinquished her seat after becoming the first woman tapped to run on a national ticket.
Because of the precedent set by office-holding VP candidates (in 1960, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson even managed to change a Texas law so he could run for reelection while on the national ballot), the House campaign of Paul Ryan, whose name will appear twice on Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District ballot, hardly causes a ripple.
Unless, of course, you are the political strategist tasked with getting Ryan to victory in his House race — a safe congressional reelection campaign that suddenly received the national spotlight. Meet Paul Wilson, Congressman Paul Ryan’s longtime political strategist (and a close friend — I awoke on August 12 to a 2:00 a.m. email from Wilson exclaiming: “It’s Ryan!!!! We have been filming with him! He knew but we didn’t”).
Paul Wilson owns Wilson Grand Communications, a political consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia. Congressman Paul Ryan has been a Wilson Grand client since 1998, when Ryan, then 28, was first elected to represent his home district in southeastern Wisconsin.
So now Paul Wilson finds himself in a unique set of circumstances. This is a race that his client must win for the seventh time — but a seat that Wilson hopes Ryan will never again occupy.
Q. Were you surprised that Romney picked Ryan as his VP?
A. Hmmm. Yes, surprised. I saw the two together on TV in Wisconsin serving food and I thought they had a very natural chemistry between them. When August came, we were filming Ryan in the days right before the announcement, and they had used the ruse “my daughter is having an operation on her adenoids on Sunday — we can’t film.”
In reality, he secretly wanted one last Sunday with his family before all hell broke loose. I was suspicious, however, when on the next day, Monday, his daughter couldn’t remember the operation from the day before. “What?” I mockingly screamed at her. “You had an operation yesterday and you don’t remember?” She sheepishly said, “Oh yeah, I forgot.”