“I know those woods like the back of my hand, so it wasn’t too hard to walk through them,” Ryan told reporters. He recalled thinking, “It’s gone from the surreal to the real.. . . It was the biggest honor I’ve ever been given in my life.”
From his Janesville neighborhood, Ryan was ferried to an airport in nearby Waukegan, Ill., and was not spotted until the Saturday morning when he stepped down from the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va., to the soundtrack of “Air Force One.”
Ryan’s journey to Norfolk, detailed by Romney adviser Beth Myers, illustrates the elaborate lengths to which the Romney campaign went to keep the vice presidential selection under wraps in the 10 days between when Romney settled on Ryan and when the GOP ticket was revealed.
“We just knew that we wanted to try to do this very quietly,” Myers said at a Saturday evening briefing with reporters in a hanger at Dulles International Airport in Washington.
Myers detailed Romney’s four-month confidential search process, which she helmed but described as “Mitt’s decision.”
The process began once Romney secured the GOP nomination in April. Myers met with former Vice President Cheney and former Secretary of State James Baker, both of whom ran vice presidential vetting in past cycles, for advice. In April, she presented Romney with a background briefing on a “large” number of candidates, and by early May they had formed a short list.
Myers would not disclose who was on the short list, but it is believed to have included former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), in addition to Ryan. Through May and June, a small team of lawyers worked in a secure room at the campaign’s Boston headquarters. They locked personal financial records — Myers said she reviewed “several” years of Ryan’s income tax returns — and other sensitive materials in a safe each night, and Myers said “no copies were ever made.”
In mid June, Myers met with Romney to go over preliminary vetting reports and later that month, at Romney’s donor retreat in Utah, she met with several candidates in person to go over issues that needed clarification.
Romney periodically consulted a team of top advisers — strategists Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, campaign manager Matt Rhoades, advisers Peter Flaherty, Eric Fehrnstrom, Ed Gillespie and Ron Kaufman, pollster Neil Newhouse and longtime friend Bob White.
“Everyone was very candid with Mitt, they offered their input and perspective,” Myers said. “He also talked to a lot of people outside that group informally — a lot of people.”
But Myers said she did not share her thoughts on whom Romney should pick because she thought it was important to maintain her impartiality.