Mitt Romney's Vice President choice, and the battle to break the news first, was the most anticipated political news of the summer. Reporters were able to beat Romney's app announcement, but only by a few hours. How did they keep Ryan a secret for so long? Spy tricks, that's how.
Here's what we know: Mitt made Paul Ryan his choice on August 1 after he returned from his trip abroad. Romney and Ryan met in secret on August 5, and that's when Ryan was officially offered the position. But how they got Ryan to Norfolk, Virginia from his home in Wisconsin has since remained a mystery. There were reporters staked out in front of his house, waiting for any indication from the potential Veep choice that he was getting the call. It never came. ABC News' John Parkinson and Emily Friedman report Ryan disappeared somehow on Friday afternoon, never to be seen again until Saturday morning:
Ryan was spotted by reporters in his driveway when he came home after the funeral Sikh memorial service for those killed in a tragic shooting in his district last week.
Ryan went to his side door near his garage and was locked out. He said he had left his keys in a staffer’s truck.
He then said he thought his wife was not home. Ryan looked for a way in and a reporter shouted, “Don’t you want to show us where you hide a key under the door mat?” He laughed and said he knew another way and went into his backyard. This is the last time reporters saw him in Janesville on Friday.
When we first saw this report the only way Ryan disappeared that we could think of was apparition. Yes, we briefly believed Paul Ryan could apparate. Paul Ryan is a witch. (Burn him.) But alas, it was something much less magic than that. The National Journal's Sarah Huisenga and Rebecca Kaplan report he was able to sneak trough the woods behind his house to meet a car nearby:
After the service his wife Janna and two children made their way to an airport in Waukegan, Ill., while Ryan returned home. To anyone observing the comings and goings at the home, it would have appeared as if Ryan had turned in for the remainder of the day.
Instead, at around 2 p.m., the seven-term congressman walked out the back door of his house and into a wooded area that bordered his property. Ryan had grown up near the woods and knew them well -- crossing through the trees put him in the driveway of his childhood home, the rendezvous point. He quickly made his way through the woods – passing a childhood tree fort he had visited as a child – and was away to Waukegan, where he joined his family on a flight to Elizabeth City, N.C.
Elizabeth City is about an hour's drive from Norfolk, Virginia where Ryan made his big debut the next morning. Ryan and his family met with Beth Myers, the Romney aide in charge of the Veep search, and stayed at a nearby inn for the night. They ate at an Applebee's, of all places, the night before the reveal. Provided no one at the family restaurant could recognize a Wisconsin Congressman and a team of aides of a Presidential candidate, they'd pulled it off. (The news ended up leaking around midnight.)
Back in Virginia, Buzzfeed's Zeke Miller reports Romney campaign aides kept their friends close, but their enemies closer the night before the announcement. They dined and drank at the hotel bar with reporters Friday night:
Two top aides, Eric Fehrnstrom and Kevin Madden, dined with two reporters at the hotel restaurant, Shula’s 347 Grill. Strategist Stuart Stevens held court at the bar, telling war stories from the 2004 Bush campaign to several others. The campaign seemed to be relaxing and bracing for a busy week, and reporters had every incentive to rest as well: Madden had warned on Friday afternoon that there would be a briefing at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
Some reporters were finishing up their last round at the wood-paneled bar of the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. Others were asleep; at least one had just taken an Ambien.
Then, around 11p.m., Romney communications director Gail Gitcho announced the Veep would be revealed Saturday morning. All hell broke loose. Senior campaign staffers either disappeared or didn't know. Some were just learning the news with reporters. They staked out the hotel lobby until 2 a.m. hoping to catch a glimpse of an aide, something, anything, that might tip them off. Alas, nothing came, and they retreated to their rooms for a few hours of sleep. The answer to their questions was sleeping soundly in a hotel room about an hour away.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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