Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager and Institute board member, caught up with former U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. These two top practitioners have an exquisite conversation about the formation and conduct of campaigns past, the importance of character, and the intersection of policy, personalities, service, politics and possibilities.
THE EDUCATION OF A FUTURE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
“And then when I was in high school I read these novels, I read Ayn Rand novels which a lot of high school kids do. And what that did was it triggered my interest in economics. By no means do I subscribe to objectivism and all of those urban legends out there kind of accuse me of this, but you get that in politics. I went to Catholic school and I’m a devout Catholic, but Rand and those novels interested me in the study of economics and I went to college to study economics and political science and political philosophy. And I really got into studying the Austrians; Mises, Hayek, the Chicago school guys like Steigler and Friedman and all the rest. So I really became focused on economics and Rand got me interested in economics.”
PAUL RYAN’S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN
“I got the young thing thrown at me. I was young, 28 by the time the campaign ended rolling around and I got the young thing thrown at me. And I call this political jiu jitsu you run at your perceived weakness and turn it into a strength. Basically I had a strategy to do that. And I ran against a woman who was the Kenosha City Council President who was fairly wealthy who had just barely lost to Mark Newman the prior campaign. So everybody basically marked me for dead and thought she was going to waltz right into the seat because she almost beat the incumbent by within 6-8 thents of a point, less than a percentage point. She had a lot of money and a lot of name ID and she was the President of the biggest town in the district, Kenosha, and I was this kid from Janesville this small town in the district and it ended up working out pretty well.”
A SURPRISE ANNOUNCEMENT
“My whole family had to go with me, so how do we extricate my whole family during the day with all of these trackers out front. So Janna and the kids while I was at this funeral go to my chief of staff’s house separately and the trackers weren’t paying attention to that. My chief of staff had this old custom StarCraft van with tinted windows on it, a Clark Griswold kind of thing. My kids didn’t know anything about this, we didn’t tell our kids anything, they were young we were worried they’d talk. My wife was in on it obviously, along with my chief of staff’s wife they had the kids in the van, and they park a block away at the end of these woods. I come back with my chief of staff and the stringer is following me, I got into my house, we had gotten my sister in law, who looks just like my wife, to fly in get inside the house, she looks like my wife to be there. So I’m there Janna and the kids are in the van on the street at the end of these woods. I put camo on, I’m a big bowhunter I have a lot of camo, and I sneak out through my backyard because they can see sort of into the backyard, sneak out through these trees through the woods into the van and then we go to Waukegan, Ill., which is a Chicago suburb, where they have a plane to take me to North Carolina and then drive into Virginia.”