A USA Today/Gallup poll shows 42 per cent of Americans see Paul Ryan as either a “fair” or “poor” choice of vice-presidential selection, while 39 per cent see him as “excellent” or “pretty good.”
Not exactly home-run numbers, as the poll points out. But it is just a snapshot of how Americans see the seven-term Washington, D.C., politician who Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected on Saturday as his running-mate.
The Romney campaign is quick to point out that, to many Americans, Mr. Ryan is still not widely known. The next several weeks will aim to connect voters to the Wisconsin native and give the Romney-Ryan ticket a boost in the polls.
Here are six little-known facts that voters and observers of U.S. politics may not know about the 42-year-old – including his Canadian connection:
He’s a lean, mean exercising machine
There is a reason why “shirtless” is the second-most popular Google search tied to Paul Ryan since Saturday.
Mr. Ryan is arguably one of the fittest Washington, D.C. politicians – a die-hard devotee since 2008 of a daily exercising regimen called P90X that helps him keep his body fat as low as six per cent on his 6’2”, 163-pound frame.
In 2010, Mr. Ryan explained how he and another congressman lead a group of 12 on Capitol Hill in P90X workouts – an exercise program that can transform a person from “regular to ripped” in 90 days.
The P90X program consists of 12 intense cross-training workouts, with the aim of creating “muscle confusion” and preventing the problem faced by many in the fitness pursuit: the exercise plateau, which is when the body adjusts to identical daily work-outs yielding little or no results.
“So this gets you out of that plateau,” said Mr. Ryan, who once worked as a fitness trainer after graduating from college. “It works because it’s called muscle confusion – it hits your body in many different ways: pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, lots of cardio, karate, jump-training, yoga.”
However, the six-pack is unlikely the driving motivation.
“(My father) died of a heart attack at 55, my grandfather died of a heart attack at 57, my great-grandfather died of heart attack at 59, so I’m into the health thing,” said Mr. Ryan in a 2009 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Incidentally, there is no shirtless picture.
He used to drive the Wienermobile
Mr. Ryan worked the grill at McDonald’s while in high school.
But it was a job in between college sessions selling Oscar Mayer products in northern Minnesota that landed him the rare honour of being allowed to drive the Wienermobile – which is basically a car in the shape of a hotdog and bun.
“It was a great job,” Mr. Ryan told CNN’s State of the Union.
According to Marty Padgett at The Car Connection: “The Wienermobile was created in 1936 by the Oscar Meyer company, and an example sits in Michigan’s The Henry Ford museum.
“Today, Oscar Meyer runs eight Wienermobiles around the country, six full-size vehicles and two Vienna Sausage-sized models, one a conversion of a MINI Cooper.”
He and Romney share a “father and son” connection
He became a congressman at the age of 28 in 1998, winning 57 per cent of the vote in his Wisconsin district.
Twenty-three years separate Mr. Ryan, 42, and Mr. Romney, 65.
In fact, Mr. Ryan is the same age as Mr. Romney eldest son. The father-and-son feel of the Republican presidential ticket will be hard to escape.
But it is by no means the biggest age gap on a presidential ticket.
A survey by the University of Minnesota Smart Politics blog shows that the Romney-Ryan pairing ranks seventh – that is below the 28-year gap that separated Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008, and tied with the 23 year gap between President George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle in 1988.
“The largest gap in age between two candidates on the same ticket occurred in 1856, when Democrat James Buchanan ran with former Kentucky U.S. Representative John Breckinridge,” according to the Smart Politics blog.
“Buchanan was 65 years old on Election Day, while Breckinridge – who became the youngest vice-president in history – was just 35, for a 30-year age difference.”
He’s already good at dodging the media
The Romney campaign was determined to keep the candidate’s vice-presidential pick a secret. Mr. Ryan kept it that way.
The congressman was in Wisconsin Friday to attend a memorial for the Sikh victims at shooting rampage in Oak Creek, Wisconsin that killed six Sikh-Americans.
He was dropped off at his residence in Janesville after the memorial, entered through the front doors, and walked out the back into the woods and to an awaiting car.
“I know those woods like the back of my hand,” Mr. Ryan later told reporters. “So it wasn’t too hard to walk through them. So I just went out my backdoor, went through the gully in the woods I grew up playing in. I walked past the tree that has my own tree fort I built back there.”
As the Romney team publicized that it would make a vice-presidential announcement in Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday morning, reporters began to stake out Mr. Ryan’s house. By then, Mr. Ryan was already en route – avoiding flying out of, and in to, airports where reporters expected him to be.
He has cheese in his veins – figuratively speaking, of course
Wisconsin has a proud dairy and cheese industry. No need to look further than a Green Bay Packers football game and the cheese-head hats worn by fans.
With the vice-presidential candidate and the head of the Republican National Committee hailing from Wisconsin, some have commented on the cheese-head revolution in GOP politics.
Speaking on Sunday night before a raucous crowd of 10,000 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Mr. Ryan was moved to tears.
“My veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little Spotted Cow, Leinenkugels and some Miller,” said Mr. Ryan.
“I was raised on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers. I like to hunt here. I like to fish here. I like to snowmobile here. I even think ice fishing is interesting.”
He has a Canadian connection
The Globe and Mail recently reported on the Toronto-raised foreign policy adviser at Mitt Romney’s side during his international tour last month.
Dan Senor played a key role during Mr. Romney’s two-day visit to Israel.
It turns out that Mr. Senor – a Canadian – now has a new job.
According to Politico, Mr. Senor will now be travelling full time with Mr. Ryan as the vice-presidential candidate’s senior adviser – responsible for prepping Mr. Ryan for his televised debate in the autumn and his Republican National Convention speech later this month in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The two candidates are known to each other when they both worked as congressional staff on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, reports Politico’s senior political writer Maggie Haberman.