- Associated Press - Sunday, August 12, 2012

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — After presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney decided on a running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan’s carefully planned transition from congressman to vice presidential candidate began — in deep secret.

Almost a week ago, Mr. Ryan snuck through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in a baseball cap and sunglasses and flew to New England. A Romney adviser’s 19-year-old son picked up Mr. Ryan and drove him to a private meeting in his parents’ dining room, where the deal was sealed.

By Friday afternoon, Mr. Ryan was cutting through the Wisconsin woods behind his home to evade a reporter on the street out front and heading to North Carolina. By night, he was eating Applebee’s takeout at a nondescript chain hotel in that state and preparing for his big debut speech, according to a top Romney campaign aide who described the furtive maneuvering to reporters late Saturday.

All this so that no one would see it coming: A Saturday-morning unveiling of the GOP ticket in Norfolk outside the USS Wisconsin, the battleship named for Mr. Ryan’s home state, as the sweeping theme from the movie “Air Force One” played.

This was the culmination of a methodical, highly secretive process that involved 10 top Romney staffers, a volunteer team of lawyers, a secret secure room in Mr. Romney’s Boston headquarters, and reams of paper on a long and then a short list of potential candidates.

In the end, the decision about who to pick rested only with Mr. Romney — a candidate who is known for marshaling opinions from across the spectrum, gathering and analyzing all the available data, and then evaluating the risks before making the final call alone.

The people around Mr. Romney told him it was risky.

As the Republican presidential candidate prepared to pick his running mate, he kept in constant touch with his senior advisers. They met in small groups and alone with the candidate. He talked to a number of other friends and confidantes, soliciting advice and opinions.

Aides knew the decision was fraught, and they told Romney so. It was a choice, they knew, that would fundamentally reshape the race for the presidency. It would acknowledge that Mr. Romney needed to offer voters more than just being the guy who wasn’t Democratic President Obama. And it would tie Mr. Romney to the architect of a highly controversial budget proposal that Democrats are eager to use to badger the Republican.

Mr. Romney, himself, decided the chance was worth taking.

“This was Mitt’s decision,” said Beth Myers, the senior adviser who led the vice presidential search. “He kept his own counsel.”

In picking Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney bypassed Republicans including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Officials said Mr. Romney had called all five to notify them of his decision. Mr. Pawlenty received a call Monday evening, the day after Mr. Ryan accepted, while the other four were all notified on Friday, just hours before the announcement.

Mr. Romney’s campaign kept the details of the search carefully concealed until late Saturday.

Ms. Myers outlined the process for reporters who gathered in a cavernous airport hangar at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, saying she consulted with former Vice President Dick Cheney about the extensive, highly sensitive process.

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