Then Ryan went on the road as the Republican candidate for vice president, and his Path to Prosperity was used as a campaign talking point by Democrats but faded into the background as coverage focused on Romney’s 47 percent remark and tenure as Massachusetts governor. Obama was re-elected and Ryan quietly returned to the Budget Committee.

And he pretty much tamped down speculation of his future political ambitions, particularly after the Romney ticket didn’t carry his home state. That is until an über-critical budget conference dropped in his lap.

Now all eyes are on Ryan again as he voted against the Reid-McConnell agreement to end the shutdown yet began the morning in crucial discussions with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) at an amicable, earnest breakfast meeting. Here, Ryan has the golden opportunity to burnish his future prospects as a uniter with conservative bonafides.

“We haven’t had a budget conference since 2009. And so we think it’s high time that we start talking together to reconcile our differences,” Ryan said at Murray’s side this morning. “And it’s premature to get into exactly how we’re gonna do that, because we’re just beginning these conversations.”

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and David Vitter (R-La.): The former is branded a “RINO” by many on the right while the latter is considered conservative by any stretch. What the two senators have in common is how they’ve jumped on vulnerable elements of Obamacare while some of their colleagues were pushing for a wholesale defunding that wasn’t going to get the votes.

Alexander, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, seized on the technical problems and security fears on Healthcare.gov to launch an investigation into the rollout of the exchanges and determine what legislation could actually be tailored to target the program’s weaknesses.

“I’ve been warning that a train wreck is coming with this law, but the truth is that no train wreck has ever had this many warning signs,” Alexander said. “The avalanche of last-minute delays should make every American anxious about the quality of the health care they’ll be able to purchase in October and the security of the information they’ll have to provide—proving again that this law must be repealed so that we can pass step-by-step reforms that transform the health care delivery system by putting patients in charge, giving them more choices, and reducing the cost of health care so that more people can afford it.”

Vitter’s focus, an amendment to require that all members of Congress, the president, vice president, and all political appointees in the administration must purchase their health insurance through the Obamacare exchange without the help of taxpayer-funded subsidies, was part of a House package until nearly the end.

“Self-dealing special treatment to avoid the consequences of a law that Congress itself passed is precisely why the American people do not trust Washington,” Vitter wrote.

Neither senator is a candidate for higher office, though Alexander once was, but both are setting an example on exploiting the flaws in Obamacare when the shutdown focus has been on wholesale defund and repeal.

The Governors: See those guys waiting in the wings for a potential shot at 2016? See how much they artfully dodged the drama of the legislative body with a 13 percent approval rating while highlighting how skillfully they run their states?

“Reform – not austerity – is the key to balancing a budget. We did it Wisconsin. Other states did too. We can do it in DC,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted on Oct. 1 before promptly turning the focus back to his home state.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has already lambasted the GOP as being “the stupid party,” said a week into the shutdown that he didn’t want to engage in Republican “fratricide.”

“We’ve got 30 Republican governors doing a great job across the state capitals across the country. The important discussions aren’t happening in D.C.,” Jindal said on CNN. As the shutdown ended, he announced the formation of a nonprofit, America Next, to help the party “play offense in the war of ideas.”

“A rebellion is brewing outside the Washington Beltway,” Jindal told Politico. “The American people know that the policies coming out of Washington are leading us to a dead end.”

“Americans demand we do more than detail the awful things the Obama Admin. has done and all the failings of The Left,” Jindal tweeted today. “America Next will promote a vision of what conservative policies can accomplish when put into practice.”

And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who leads his Democratic challenger by 26.5 points in the latest Real Clear Politics polling average, met with Republican lawmakers behind close doors in Washington last week when he visited to mark the end of the term of his appointee, Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R-N.J.). “You know, I don’t think it’s ever good to keep the government closed when your job is to run the government,” he said after his meetings.

“Both parties made a mess of DC. We should haul all their rear ends up to NJ to see how bipartisanship works,” Christie tweeted last night, linking to his video at Rutgers decrying partisan bickering in Washington.

The Republican Governors Association is gleefully highlighting its enviable position out of the fray with an American Comeback initiative.

“We are not going to allow the antics in Washington to damage or destroy what we stand for,” RGA Chairman Jindal said. “The media are focused on Republican infighting — they want to pit the ‘establishment’ versus the ‘grassroots.’ Republican governors are showing that when you turn conservative principles into real policies, they work.”